Can memory mask understanding?

child in mask

Our desire to pass tests means we focus more on short term memory than building the solid foundations of understanding

There are times when memory is all you require to get by in life; remembering where you left the keys, remembering your logon password, or even remembering what you came upstairs for – which in my experience is becoming increasingly difficult. 

Memory is something we all desperately want to cling on to, however there are times when memory on its own simply isn’t enough and we need a deeper understanding.  Without a good understanding of why things happen, it is difficult to progress beyond what you can remember.   

Nowhere is that more relevant than in education.  Education is a series of building blocks that stack on top of each other and as with any structure, the stronger the foundations, the taller the building.  The priority of education, especially at primary age, must be to build a solid understanding to give the children the confidence and foundations to progress.  But does the testing regime really measures understanding or memory?

Since starting PLYTIME, we’ve discovered that many children simply remember facts rather than understand the numbers and reasons behind them.   That might mean they can pass a test but unfortunately, when the curriculum moves on, they might struggle to advance with it.  That’s why we focus on building strong foundations – we aren’t gearing up to a specific test like SATs or the 11+ – we are helping children to develop an understanding of numbers so they have the confidence to move forward with a “can-do” attitude.” 

We understand the government’s desire for children to master the basics as soon as possible and why they are introducing things like the new Times Table test.  However, if the test is simply a memory test then it risks masking real understanding.  Learning a rhyme to remember times tables can be useful but it isn’t the same as understanding numbers.   

We must make sure that the heart of any testing is the desire to help children reach their potential and not simply to look good on league tables.  For that to happen they need to understand and not just remember.

  • Post last modified:5th July 2021