Saturday, June 30, 2012

Memory Tricks

Ran across an interesting TED Talk on cultivating memory, embedded below:

The premise of the video is that people with "super human memories" aren't necessarily super human --  but most of their abilities are trained -- that you may can use a relatively simple technique to remember many different things. Joshua Foer calls it building a "memory palace" which is a series of images which you can use to associate things.  He opens the speech with a very vivid account of several images, including nudist bikers outside his front door, cookie monster greeting him on a talking horse in his living room, the four wizard of oz characters in his kitchen and Britany Spears in his hallway. This palace reminded him of all the talking points he was going to make in his speech, which he revealed when he decoded the dream at the end.

His talk inspired me to think of ways that I can make my classes more memorable -- and so I hope by including the video in this blog, I will remember to consciously teach with these techniques in mind.

I have used other techniques for memories -- mostly chunking.  That involves breaking a sequence of numbers, words, or objects into groups. I remember the decimal notation of 1/7th that way: 14 (which is twice 7) 28 (which is twice 7) and then 57, which I "just remember" which gives me .142857.  I initially remembered it as 56 is twice 28... but it was a little off. Regardless, it has stuck in my head, and to this day when I say the number, I say it in chunks: onefour, twoeight, fiveseven....  My mom memorized her aunts phone number in a very similar, mockable way -- but she never forgot it.

Another example of chunking I've used is for Philippians 4:8: Whatever is true, whatever is noble, etc...
I grouped the first three together and remembered that i sing TeNoR (true, noble, right).  I grouped the second three together because I PLAy music (pure, lovely, admirable) and the last two (excellent, praiseworthy) reminded me of an acronym from waterskiing, an Exceptional Performance or EP. So I learned the verse by Tenor, Play, EP. Incidentally, I wrote a song for that verse and the surrounding verses which clumps them together like that.

But, this memory trick is about picture association, so here's my attempt at building a picture to help remember the seventh's:

Since there are six digits that repeat, I'm going to imagine six passengers in my minivan. Driving the van is a pirate, who has one leg, and an eye-patch over one eye and has a one-winged parrot who has dropped a small single drop of white poop with black speckles onto his shoulder.  He forces a soccer ball over to a 4-point white tailed deer who is standing with all four legs on the seat. He head butts the ball behind him to a terrible two year old orange bicycle named Bo who bounces the ball off both handle bars and behind him to an red octopus wearing a white border who promptly ate the soccer ball and farts which causes the five year old Abraham Lincoln who is stuck in his five-point safety harness to laugh uncontrollably, kicking the seat of his seven sisters, collectively named Pleiades, who spill their rainbow colored slurpee on the pirate and his bird who says "do it again -- squawk!".... 

I could probably use some practice.... What have you memorized before?  Comment below.

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