Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Cards: The Original Flash Drive

 

“I’m as something as something in something!” Do you recognize the tune? Do you recognize what’s missing?

The syntax is there, but the content is blank. Welcome to my memory. The memory of someone who’ll never grow out of flash cards, for as long as I need to remember, not just structure, but the things that go in it. Whether I’m using them to organize thoughts, or to drill my recalcitrant memory, flash cards are Midge’s little helper. The original flash drive, if you will. Not because a card works like flash memory, but because, like a flash drive, cards are a small, easily-portable way to carry around bits of vital information.

I was a voracious reader in childhood, so I got pretty well acquainted with words, but I’m not a naturally verbal thinker. And, without Google on tap, I’m not detail oriented, either. By the time I reached middle school, memory-work was my nemesis. History class was the worst, because what excites a history teacher is explaining the interplay between events, but inevitably what’s on a history test is dates. Dates. I hate dates. I started forgetting my own birthdate by the time I hit 14. I have a husband who never has to worry if he has forgotten an anniversary – even if I remembered it myself for a change, I couldn’t fault him for forgetting, since I’m the one who usually forgets.

I liked science in high school because science felt like fewer things to remember. You don’t have to remember dates, or quotations, or famous men’s names. Biology comes with a fair amount of memory-work, chemistry with some, physics with the least. It’s not surprising that once I got to college I declared a physics major. When that changed to math, I learned that mathematicians may not have to remember much, but they darn heckin’ better remember it exactly. Good reasoning ability could amount to nothing if you’ve blanked on a vital component in the definition of, say, a “ring”, when “rings” are what you have to reason about. On physics exams, fanciful “definitions” sometimes flew under the radar as long as you otherwise set up the problem right. Not so in math. Flash cards became my friend. Flash cards can’t teach you to reason well, but even a moke like me eventually remembers what she’s supposed to reason about with enough drilling.

Until my shoulder started going and my writing got big, I used little flash cards, a quarter to a half the size of regular index cards. Later, it was full index cards. Index cards are also useful for carrying around an essay before it’s fully organized. You can lay out your essay and “solve” it like a jigsaw puzzle, freeing yourself from the constraint of words’ usual linearity. (You can also stick an index card in the corner of your bathroom mirror, with a note reminding yourself where your shoes are. Yes, I have done this.)

I still have some of my little bundles of flash cards. Some bundles haven’t survived intact and are probably fairly useless, but a fully-intact bundle still comes in handy for reviewing what I once learned. No matter how good you are at fitting ideas together, if you don’t remember what it is you’re supposed to fit together, you’re sunk.

Without flashcards, “I’m as something as something in something!”

After enough drilling with those cards, though, even I remember ♫”I’m as corny as Kansas in August!”♫

There are 37 comments.

  1. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSul Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Oof, I hated flash cards and the drilling involved, they didn’t work for me at all. I had to hear something, read it, and / or work it from context. Rote memorization on its own has rarely worked for me, but I am good at remembering chains and strings, relationships and weird details from events.

    • #1
    • October 28, 2017, at 8:40 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  2. Clavius Thatcher

    We used flash cards to teach our older daughter, now 22, to learn the times tables. That was when I learned them by rote instead of doing the math in my head every time. It is actually very convenient just to know the answer.

    And I am sorely tempted to buy these constellation flash cards, to know 32 constellations without having to look it up.

    There certainly is a place for rote memorization. (Good grief, how did we ever spell things correctly without spell check?)

    • #2
    • October 28, 2017, at 8:44 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  3. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    Oof, I hated flash cards and the drilling involved, they didn’t work for me at all. I had to hear something, read it, and / or work it from context. Rote memorization on its own has rarely worked for me, but I am good at remembering chains and strings, relationships and weird details from events.

    Rote memorization on its own does nothing for me, either. But it was never on its own, not where math (or foreign language) was concerned.

    I’ve sometimes said of my memory, “The library is big, but the librarian is asleep” – that is, I actually remember quite a bit, but with poor recall: I’m terrible at remembering what I’m supposed to remember on cue. Flash cards were a way to kick my inner librarian’s butt until she woke up a little.

    • #3
    • October 28, 2017, at 8:46 PM PDT
    • 9 likes
  4. Judge Mental Member

    I’m not much of a fan of flash cards per se, but I love me a good cheat card. On my first night of my first programming class, they gave us a fan fold IBM 360 Series reference card (the famous “yellow card”). They crammed an unbelievable amount of stuff in there. I used it for probably ten years, which means even after school was done.

    • #4
    • October 28, 2017, at 8:48 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  5. Clavius Thatcher

    Judge Mental (View Comment):
    I’m not much of a fan of flash cards per se, but I love me a good cheat card. On my first night of my first programming class, they gave us a fan fold IBM 360 Series reference card (the famous “yellow card”). They crammed an unbelievable amount of stuff in there. I used it for probably ten years, which means even after school was done.

    I had a green one early in my career for the IBM mainframe that was quite useful. Perhaps it was yellow. It was useful.

    It did always bother me that ASCII and EBCDIC put numbers at opposite ends of the alphabet code value wise. Apropos of nothing.

    • #5
    • October 28, 2017, at 9:04 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  6. Clavius Thatcher

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: History class was the worst, because what excites a history teacher is explaining the interplay between events, but inevitably what’s on a history test is dates. Dates. I hate dates. I started forgetting my own birthdate by the time I hit fourteen.

    I was an History major as an undergraduate, and in the end, memorizing dates had nothing to do with the curriculum. We learned motives, trends, the sequence of events, etc., but the focus, at the college level, was meaningful notion of what had happened (or what we believed now happened then based on the evidence we have). The date focused testing of middle school and perhaps high school is misguided.

    Keep a few in mind. Alexander the Great 356-323, Fall of Rome: 476. Fall of Roman Empire (Eastern Edition) 1453, Battle of Hastings 1066, any more and I am cheating.

    But what happened, roughly when, and why we think it happened, is what is important in History.

    • #6
    • October 28, 2017, at 9:11 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  7. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Midge is Ricochet’s own Lady Ava Lovelace, our Admiral Grace Hopper when it comes to rigorously logical structures (as well as being our Dorothy Parker at gently, ruefully noting how often we mere humans fail to be logical or rigorous). Thanks for another great post!

    I’m long been good at chronology and can mentally zoom in on an event or moment 40, 45 years ago and find that Google backs me up about a chilly day in April, 1964 or an eclipse in March 1970. Like a sharp telephoto lens, it’s fun to be able to resolve tiny differences in changing times, personal events, national mood, or popular culture.

    But at age 65, I’m much lousier at active use of memories connected to dense (metaphorical) archipelagos of projects or businesses from, say 15-25 years back if I haven’t had occasion to see or communicate with those people recently. They drop off my memory map almost completely before, roughly, the Iraq war, unless some news clip brings them to mind. The whole set of meetings, drafts, trips to Washington, etc connected to say, Serbia or Bahrain or Taipei becomes part of a memory bubble, rarely visited later, like the unimaginably vast warehouse at the end of “Raider of the Lost Ark”.

    On the other hand I can revisit that bubble if I really want to, so it’s not quite age 75 conditions yet.

    I should look into those flash cards. Stay tuned.

    • #7
    • October 28, 2017, at 10:45 PM PDT
    • 10 likes
  8. Clavius Thatcher

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake (View Comment):

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    Oof, I hated flash cards and the drilling involved, they didn’t work for me at all. I had to hear something, read it, and / or work it from context. Rote memorization on its own has rarely worked for me, but I am good at remembering chains and strings, relationships and weird details from events.

    Rote memorization on its own does nothing for me, either. But it was never on its own, not where math (or foreign language) was concerned.

    I’ve sometimes said of my memory, “The library is big, but the librarian is asleep” – that is, I actually remember quite a bit, but with poor recall: I’m terrible at remembering what I’m supposed to remember on cue. Flash cards were a way to kick my inner librarian’s butt until she woke up a little.

    I remember a comment from a professor in a learning and behavior class (it satisfied a life sciences requirement for met). It was from the learning side of the course and the comment was “You don’t forget things, you just can’t remember them.” This is a very existential comment but it leads to my belief that the more connections we build among our memories make them more easily retrievable.

    • #8
    • October 28, 2017, at 10:49 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  9. The Reticulator Member

    I thought everyone had switched from flash cards to Anki by now.

    To remember and recall my bicycle rides I use maps, although that isn’t the only thing that helps. In the evening after an all day ride I transfer the GPX file of the ride from my tablet computer to my computer, and then clean it up to show my route more accurately. That helps fix a lot of details and scenes of of the ride in my memory. By the end of the day I’ve almost forgotten them, but they come back to me when doing this review of the ride. That one review helps me remember a lot of details for a much longer time. And months or years later, when I review the route on a map, a lot of almost forgotten details come back to me, but in many cases it’s because of that one review on the evening after a ride that they come back. And I sometimes remember what book I was listening to, if I was listening to a book, which I don’t always do when away from home, because I’m trying to memorize the terrain, etc, instead. And it works the other way around, too. Thinking about the book or re-listening to part of it will remind me of what I was doing back when I first listened to it.

    But for things like Russian vocabulary I use Anki. I am terrible at rote memory, but it helps and is simpler and better than dealing with flash cards. And most memorization isn’t really rote memorization, because the more you memorize the more of a vocabulary you have to connect with new words, and therefore don’t need to rely on rote memory.

    • #9
    • October 28, 2017, at 11:13 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  10. Randy Webster Member

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: Dates. I hate dates.

    “Bad dates.” Sallah.

    • #10
    • October 29, 2017, at 2:37 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  11. Randy Webster Member

    Clavius (View Comment):
    We used flash cards to teach our older daughter, now 22, to learn the times tables. That was when I learned them by rote instead of doing the math in my head every time. It is actually very convenient just to know the answer.

    And I am sorely tempted to buy these constellation flash cards, to know 32 constellations without having to look it up.

    There certainly is a place for rote memorization. (Good grief, how did we ever spell things correctly without spell check?)

    One of the problems with modern education is that they don’t do rote memorization. It’s too boring.

    • #11
    • October 29, 2017, at 2:39 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  12. Arahant Member

    In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

    Mnemonic devices are important for learning. It used to be that if you wanted to learn history, you would memorize a poem. Why a poem? Because epic poetry is packed full of mnemonic devices, such as rhyme and rhythm in classical poetry or alliteration and rhythm in Anglo-Saxon poetry. Poetry for the memory win!

    • #12
    • October 29, 2017, at 2:52 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  13. Arahant Member

    Of course, the poetic traditions all started to fall apart with that Gutenberg fellow. Once books became mass produced, epic poetry began to die. We no longer had to remember all of history in our heads because of the expense of books. Now, we could just turn to a book on the shelf. Thus came Cervantes and Defoe with a new form that was harder to commit to memory.

    And speaking of all things new and that new form of writing in particular, the novel, that will be our theme in November. If you have ever written a novel, attempted to write a novel, created something novel, or just run across something that was new and fascinating to you, why not sign up for a date in November to tell us about it?

    • #13
    • October 29, 2017, at 2:58 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  14. Randy Webster Member

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Of course, the poetic traditions all started to fall apart with that Gutenberg fellow. Once books became mass produced, epic poetry began to die. We no longer had to remember all of history in our heads because of the expense of books. Now, we could just turn to a book on the shelf. Thus came Cervantes and Defoe with a new form that was harder to commit to memory.

    And speaking of all things new and that new form of writing in particular, the novel, that will be our theme in November. If you have ever written a novel, attempted to write a novel, created something novel, or just run across something that was new and fascinating to you, why not sign up for a date in November to tell us about it?

    Rob Long would be proud of you.

    • #14
    • October 29, 2017, at 3:12 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  15. Arahant Member

    Randy Webster (View Comment):
    Rob Long would be proud of you.

    Gotta keep it interesting. Between Quote of the Day and Group Writing, I’m doing the shilling twice per day at least. I don’t want to bore anyone else with it, and certainly don’t want to bore myself.

    • #15
    • October 29, 2017, at 3:40 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  16. I Walton Member

    I can hear the tune, see her lovely face, Mitzy Ganor I think, Mary Martin played her on stage, but I can’t remember what she was as high as or corny as or the rest of the words. Images like Mizy Ganor or musical phrases are easier to remember than words. I had an American English professor who urged his student to memorize key phrases as if we were studying chemistry or biology. I did and it had an amazing affect on all professors, but I couldn’t use flash cards because the key was to understand why that particular phrase was important to memorize. He tricked us into more serious study. Besides I’d have forgotten to carry flash cards. Now I’d need motorized cart to carry the cards.

    • #16
    • October 29, 2017, at 5:59 AM PDT
    • Like
  17. Sandy Member

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Clavius (View Comment):
    We used flash cards to teach our older daughter, now 22, to learn the times tables. That was when I learned them by rote instead of doing the math in my head every time. It is actually very convenient just to know the answer.

    And I am sorely tempted to buy these constellation flash cards, to know 32 constellations without having to look it up.

    There certainly is a place for rote memorization. (Good grief, how did we ever spell things correctly without spell check?)

    One of the problems with modern education is that they don’t do rote memorization. It’s too boring.

    I once read the same complaint along with the explanation that young children, very good at rote memorization, like it fine; it’s their teachers who find it boring. Modern education claims to be child-centered. It is anything but, so facts are abandoned in favor of “critical thinking,” which is in fact its opposite, and now we have lost factual knowledge and the ability to reason. The more I think about this, the more I am struck by the comment of @arahant on the loss of epic poetry.

    • #17
    • October 29, 2017, at 6:10 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  18. She Thatcher
    She Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Sandy (View Comment):

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Clavius (View Comment):
    We used flash cards to teach our older daughter, now 22, to learn the times tables. That was when I learned them by rote instead of doing the math in my head every time. It is actually very convenient just to know the answer.

    And I am sorely tempted to buy these constellation flash cards, to know 32 constellations without having to look it up.

    There certainly is a place for rote memorization. (Good grief, how did we ever spell things correctly without spell check?)

    One of the problems with modern education is that they don’t do rote memorization. It’s too boring.

    I once read the same complaint along with the explanation that young children, very good at rote memorization, like it fine; it’s their teachers who find it boring.

    Many teachers find it boring because they think it’s beneath them. They think they’re better than that, and that instilling some random-access memory into their small charges (so that they can quickly dredge up the answers to the questions that are sometimes necessary to grease the skids of life) is unimportant.

    Modern education claims to be child-centered. It is anything but, so facts are abandoned in favor of “critical thinking,” which is in fact its opposite, and now we have lost factual knowledge and the ability to reason. The more I think about this, the more I am struck by the comment of @arahant on the loss of epic poetry.

    Could not agree more. The way to make education “child-centered” for small children is to turn many aspects of it into a game. Flash cards are idea for that, if the teacher has the least bit of imagination. Learning poems or passages of literature is something else that can be turned into a game for very small children, starting with mnemonics like “30 days hath September.”

    My dad (who could quote miles of poetry and plays, as well as lengthy passages from the Bible) used to match wits with a Prince Edward Island fisherman (of the deep-sea fishing variety, not a sports angler), whose formal ‘education’ had never passed beyond the eighth grade. Their contests, as they tried to outdo each other, or find fault with each other’s renderings, were sometimes epic in their own right.

    My dad didn’t always win.

    • #18
    • October 29, 2017, at 6:54 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  19. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Everyone needs their own devices to learn and retain. Nobody seems to learn in the same way.

    I was a mimic growing up, sort of a half pint Rich Little. I made it through Freshman English by casting Shakespeare’s plays based on who I had learned impressions of. (There would be no other reason for Carol Channing and Truman Capote to have the lead roles in Romeo and Juliet except for the fact that it was hilarious at the time. No really…. ok.. you had to be there. But it seemed to please the study hall crowd.) To this day I can quote pretty large chunks of various plays by the Bard. Nothing will get heads scratching like showing up to the last game of a season by saying, “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more; or close up the wall with our English dead!”

    Unfortunately, this was totally ill suited for mathematics.

    • #19
    • October 29, 2017, at 7:58 AM PDT
    • 11 likes
  20. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSul Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Here ya go, @ejhill

    • #20
    • October 29, 2017, at 8:20 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  21. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    EJHill (View Comment):
    To this day I can quote pretty large chunks of various plays by the Bard.

    My memory for verse is much less bad than my memory for any other sort of words. So is my memory for tunes. I can remember a tune. It’s how I remember my own phone number (fortunately all the digits are between 1 and 8, corresponding to the eight notes in a scale).

    One math teacher dropped the hint that you can memorize the quadratic formula to the tune Amazing Grace. This was a horrible mnemonic, and I suspect whoever came up with it was already good at remembering the formula to begin with. It works much better to Pop Goes the Weasel:

    Oh, if only I’d known!

    Instead, I got really fast at rederiving the formula in the margin of exams when the examiner stuck us with “real world” quadratics instead of ones that factored nicely.

    • #21
    • October 29, 2017, at 9:44 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  22. Randy Webster Member

    EJHill (View Comment):
    Everyone needs their own devices to learn and retain. Nobody seems to learn in the same way.

    I was a mimic growing up, sort of a half pint Rich Little. I made it through Freshman English by casting Shakespeare’s plays based on who I had learned impressions of. (There would be no other reason for Carol Channing and Truman Capote to have the lead roles in Romeo and Juliet except for the fact that it was hilarious at the time. No really…. ok.. you had to be there. But it seemed to please the study hall crowd.) To this day I can quote pretty large chunks of various plays by the Bard. Nothing will get heads scratching like showing up to the last game of a season by saying, “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more; or close up the wall with our England dead!”

    Unfortunately, this was totally ill suited for mathematics.

    You may talk o’ gin and beer,

    When you’re quartered safe out ‘ere,

    And you’re sent to penny fights and Aldershot it,

    But when it comes to slaughter,

    You’ll do your work on water,

    And you’ll lick the bloomin’ boots of him that’s got it.

    Now in Injia’s sunny clime

    Where I used to spend my time,

    A servin’ of her majesty the queen,

    Of all that black-faced crew,

    The finest man I knew

    Was our regimental bhisti, Gunga Din

    • #22
    • October 29, 2017, at 10:00 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  23. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSul Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake (View Comment):
    Instead, I got really fast at rederiving the formula in the margin of exams when the examiner stuck us with “real world” quadratics instead of ones that factored nicely.

    Once I learned calculus, that was the only way I could deal with physics equations. Easier to remember a couple of core equations and then either derive or integrate to get what I needed, rather than brute force memorization, especially when it came to anything angular or periodic.

    • #23
    • October 29, 2017, at 11:21 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  24. Clavius Thatcher

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake (View Comment):
    Instead, I got really fast at rederiving the formula in the margin of exams when the examiner stuck us with “real world” quadratics instead of ones that factored nicely.

    Once I learned calculus, that was the only way I could deal with physics equations. Easier to remember a couple of core equations and then either derive or integrate to get what I needed, rather than brute force memorization, especially when it came to anything angular or periodic.

    In my freshman mechanics class, the professor promised he would provide all the needed formulas for the test.

    When we got into the room for the exam, one of the chalk boards had on it: “F = ma Good luck!”

    • #24
    • October 29, 2017, at 11:34 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  25. RightAngles Member

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake (View Comment):

    My memory for verse is much less bad than my memory for any other sort of words. So is my memory for tunes. I can remember a tune.

    Growing up we knew a little boy whose parents taught him to remember his name and address when he was 3, in case he ever got lost. They did it by having him sing to the tune of Old MacDonald:

    Roger Swanson is my name
    1341 Webster Lane

    See how effective it is? I even still remember it.

    • #25
    • October 29, 2017, at 11:47 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  26. Clavius Thatcher

    My favorite mnemonic for a number is to remember this number 1492831411066

    Columbus ate pie at the Battle of Hastings

    • #26
    • October 29, 2017, at 11:49 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  27. Trink Coolidge
    Trink Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake ” . . . .drill my recalcitrant memory,…’

    What a great idea. My problem is -my memory is so bad that I’d forget what I did with the flashcards :)

    • #27
    • October 29, 2017, at 11:50 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  28. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake (View Comment):
    Instead, I got really fast at rederiving the formula in the margin of exams when the examiner stuck us with “real world” quadratics instead of ones that factored nicely.

    Once I learned calculus, that was the only way I could deal with physics equations. Easier to remember a couple of core equations and then either derive or integrate to get what I needed, rather than brute force memorization, especially when it came to anything angular or periodic.

    The first thing I did in one of my physics mid-terms was derive electrodynamics from Maxwell’s equations in the margin of the first page.

    Got +20 extra credit for it.

    • #28
    • October 29, 2017, at 12:54 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  29. Israel P. Inactive

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: “I’m as something as something in something!” Do you recognize the tune? Do you recognize what’s missing?

    Corny as Kansas in August.

    I bought some flash cards to help my kids with some basic arithmetic and with English. They hated them.

    • #29
    • October 29, 2017, at 1:24 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  30. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    Israel P. (View Comment):

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: ♫“I’m as something as something in something!”♫ Do you recognize the tune? Do you recognize what’s missing?

    Corny as Kansas in August.

    I bought some flash cards to help my kids with some basic arithmetic and with English. They hated them.

    To be fair, I hated them, too, until I found myself in a major I truly loved, and was generally good at, and found myself frustrated on quizzes and such, especially on the “easiest” questions, like, state the definition of this thing we’ve been studying.

    Part of it was a confidence issue — math had been my worst subject till Calculus. So I was working to overcome some amnesia from nerves, too. (Well, math and history were about equal, but stupid mistakes on history tests didn’t bother me as much, for some reason.)

    • #30
    • October 29, 2017, at 5:34 PM PDT
    • 1 like