Thursday, February 21, 2019

Smarty loves reading books about how our brain works, and one of her latest favorites, The Tale of The Dueling Neurosurgeons by Sam Kean has a lot of interesting facts about our discoveries of memory structures in brain and differences between various types of memory. Smarty's own memory has her own individual quirks. For example, she has problems keeping names and dates in her long term memory. Oh, she has no problems memorizing something for the test or even answering questions presented in multiple choice format, but names and dates seem to lose their association with details. For example, she is still fuzzy about when an electric bulb was invented despite reading so many fiction and non-fiction books on the subject. Yet, her "random access knowledge" is extensive, and she managed to qualify for regional National History Bee. I was really blown away by that, but... it was a multiple choice test and apparently seeing the right answer among possible alternatives triggers her memory. Unfortunately, the regionals will be in an entirely different format - a "buzzer format" of hearing the question introduced through obscure facts and trying to be the first to figure out what that is. This is where Smarty's deficiencies in linking names and events back to their descriptions really become clear. For example, I asked her, "Which American President had four terms in the office?" and she said, "Oh, yes, I know him. That guy in a wheelchair who had polio." So she has facts in her head connected correctly, but... no names :)
I think Smarty might have a better chance with National Science Bee that she also qualified for. Her brain seems to work differently remembering definitions for scientific concepts. I wonder if it's a matter of emotional connection - she is more interested in science and in math than in history. Unfortunately, science bee also has a lot of questions where a clue refers to dates and places of scientific discoveries and the answer requires naming a scientist. Alternatively, the name and the date is given and the discovery needs to be named. In any case, I think participating in these bees this year (the last year she is eligible for them) will be a new experience to her, and she will meet the kids in the regionals who train for these events since kindergarten. I don't expect her to advance to national finals, but I am hoping that she might be interested in participating in science competitions when she is in high school, and I am thinking of offering the school help in setting up a science bowl team.

Your Turn

Do your kids remember names and dates?


Min Erva said...

I am terrible at remembering names and dates and felt restricted by it as an adult. It's one of those skills that's helpful in getting along with people and having a decent conversation. When you are always stumped to remember the name, it can be frustrating. I think there are ways to remedy this by learning mnemonic devices. One thing I also learned is to repeat someone's name after being introduced. It takes a bit of mindfulness.

An Almost Unschooling Mom said...

It will be interesting to see which competition she does better in.

Ticia said...

Not so much, but it's not the way I'm teaching history. I do have some dates I expect them to memorize, and we use those to hang the events of history on them.