How memory techniques can unleash children’s love of learning

After reading a copy of the bestselling memory improvement book, The Memory Palace, IBM innovator and creative Kevin Aires became curious as to how these simple techniques could impact his own children’s education. Working with his daughter, Kevin found that not only did these techniques produce some amazing results, they also sparked a long lasting passion for learning.

Part of the success of these memory techniques is to train your mind with a practical and proven approach to memorization. The other part is taking advantage of the way our brains are wired, and how we have been sharing and retaining information for thousands of generations.

I want to pull out three points that will help us think about our minds and how we can use them to memorize more information than we thought humanly possible and to do it in a way that unleashes a love of learning in us and can also unleash a love of learning in children.

  1. Our minds love vivid images. In fact it’s hard to forget a vivid image rather than hard to remember it.
  2. Our minds are really really good at remembering places and journeys.
  3. We love stories. Since the beginning of civilization we’ve been telling each other stories.

These three points form the basic structure of the memory techniques Kevin and his daughter have used to train their brains, visualizing information and building an evolving story to store and map information.

When we start doing jigsaws, we probably start with the interesting bit, the reason we did the jigsaw. The dog’s face. The train. Whatever it happens to be. But after a while, either because we figure it out or somebody shows us, we realize that doing the edge bits first is the most effective way of doing a jigsaw. These pieces all have something unique about them, they’ve got a straight edge. And when we put it together like that, we haven’t done the picture but what we have done tells us some important information. It tells us the shape of the picture. It tells us the size of the picture. And also we’re bought in, we want to complete the picture. Also all those little bits hanging off the edge make it easier to put all the other bits in.

Now when we teach children a new subject I rather suspect that we tend to go for the easy option and teach them the bits that will engage them, the interesting bits. But I wonder how that really serves them in the long run. Do they really remember those bits of information? Have we given them a context for the information? Have we given them the edge of the jigsaw?

While there are many, many ways to approach learning and memorization, one of the most important factors Kevin discusses is how these techniques can improve student confidence.

Kids learning in this way feel, what I’ve seen in my children and others, a sense of ownership over the information. It gives them a real sense of confidence, it’s not something that those clever people over there or those adults know, it’s something I know and can know about. So it’s a really really big confidence boost.

 Three tips to get started

  1. Keep it simple: Start by choosing ten pieces of information. Place each of these items on an imaginary journey somewhere familiar, perhaps your home or school.
  2. Rehearse it: An important part of the technique is to continually revise the information. The next day go through your journey. And the day after that. Then progress to each week and then each month.
  3. Help children: With your children, help them create their journey using characters and places they enjoy. This will not only help them retain the information, it will also make the process a lot more engaging and fun.


Feature image Thinking icon designed by Jens Tärning for The Noun Project.

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