Recently I saw a very good demonstration of the importance of making connections when it comes to learning, and how this can make knowledge both more secure and more memorable – an exercise certainly worth showing your students and considering each time you plan any sequence of activities.
Imagine I told you I was going to ask you to remember a 12 digit number. I then put this number on the board and gave you just 5 seconds to remember it.
The number sequence would look like this;
You might quickly try and chunk it up into sections so that it looked like the following;
6061 4911 6961
But in reality your confidence and ability to recall and recite the full 12 digits in order after such a limited time would be pretty limited.
However what if those very same numbers looked as follows;
1066 1914 1966
These are the exact same numbers, just in a different pattern. In just five seconds there’s now a fairly high chance you would quickly remember them and even be able to recite the same numbers back after an hour of doing other things.
The numbers in the first sequence mean nothing to us and therefore our ability to attach importance or significance to them is under great strain. In the final sequence, because of the attachment of wider / prior knowledge (in this case ‘key dates’ in history) we are able to cross reference / triangulate the sequence against things we already know (even if they are arbitrary and unrelated to the topic at hand).