Mnemonics: A Classroom Experiment

Metacognition is an important and integrated part of our Creative Lion project. It can be described as “thinking about thinking” and it includes knowledge about when and how to use particular strategies for learning. Mnemonics is a kind of metacognitive strategy that is intended to make it easier to remember information, such as poems or series of letters.

Eva Nilsek, who works as mathematics teacher at Fria Läroverken in Karlstad, decided to try some of these mnemonics strategies to see if they are successful or not. She also wanted the students to reflect on how they learn things.

At the beginning of a lesson with her technology students, she divided the students into four groups and each group was asked to remember as many decimals of π as possible for 20 minutes, without any assistance. After 20 minutes, each group presented how many decimals they had remembered.

Then the groups were asked to do the same exercise again, but this time they were asked to use different mnemonics strategies (for a more detailed description of these strategies, we refer to the metacognitive section of our Creative Lion website). Each group was assigned with one of the following strategies:

  • Associate words to number, where the students used rhymes with the same number of letters as the value of the number
  • Come up with stories that involve numbers
  • Imagine a memory palace where each room represents different numbers
  • Associate different concepts with numbers

When the students had worked with the memory strategies for 20 minutes, they were once again asked how many decimals of π they remembered. Each group remembered more numbers when using the mnemonics strategy.

Eva Nilsek was impressed that all the students had improved their score and she is eager to introduce these strategies to all of her classes:

– I am really happy that all groups benefited from these mnemonics strategies and I believe these strategies can help them in other subjects as well, Eva Nilsek concludes.

Below: A short video from the math lesson.

Text: Erik Axelsson and Eva Nilsek
Photo and Film: Elin Andersson Paulsson and Wilma Axelborn

1 Comments

  1. Memorising techniques are particularly useful in Maths learning and this lesson proves it. The interesting teaching approach is, in my opinion, the direct comparison between two contrasting attempts: straightforward decimals memorisation with no supporting strategies vs memorisation aided by mnemo-techniques. The students have experienced their improved performances first-hand as a consequence of the employment of memorising strategies. This ‘learning-by-doing’ activity can be highly motivating in having them re-use the same successful techniques while learning other subjects as well. Thank you for this contribution.

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