Remembering Dates And Figures

The question is often asked, how can I remember dates and *figures 7 Most students learn them by Rote, using frequent repetition. If they would use visualization in this connection the task would be far easier. For instance, the date of the Emancipation Proclamation can be pictured with Lincoln writing the date under the words.

Balboa discovered the Pacific Ocean, and the date can be visualized on the crest of the waves that stretch away before his vision. This process, of course, calls for a certain amount of ingenuity and imagination and should work with the law of Association. If your visualization power is keen, things linked together in this way will long be remembered. Atkinson offers this suggestion:

“In the case of students who have many important dates to remember, it is a good plan to connect the name of the person or event with the date, by the law of associated impressions. By always speaking of ‘Waterloo, 1815,’ or Yorktown, 1781,’ or I Hastings, 1066,’ the dates of these battles will become inseparably associated with the events themselves, and the two impressions will be confused. Of course, this will require the frequent repetition of the event and associated date, to fix the combined impression in the mind. If the date and event had been associated in this way from the beginning, there would have been no more trouble about the association than in the case of the words,

‘Washington’ and `George,’ or `Napoleon’ and ‘Bonaparte.’ If we had not heard Washington’s first name or Napoleon’s last name until long after we had formed a clear impression of the other name of each, we should have some-times forgotten the last-learned name, whereas, having learned them both together, the two names are practically one so far as our memory is concerned. If teachers would always speak of ` Waterloo, 1815,’ the students would never forget the date of that battle so long as they remembered its name.”

Some students with good ear perception can memorize dates easily by means of rhyme or jingles. Many elderly people remember perfectly to this day the following lines learned in childhood.

Thirty days hath September, April, June, and November, All the rest have thirty-one excepting February alone, Which hath but twenty-eight in fine, till leap year gives it twenty-nine.”

In regard to the time of memorizing, in connection with the way, I make this suggestion: memorize for ideas in the forenoon, while your mental force is fresh and buoyant, leaving your Rote memorizing for the afternoon and evening. Creative thinking, which calls for the aid of the Logical memory, cannot be done when the brain is fagged.


It is generally held that Logical memory has more to do with the subconscious mind than has Rote memory, but we must leave that for the discussion of the psychologists. Lawrence gives some good advice on this point: ” Memorize by facts; by thoroughly knowing events, men, or things; grasp the meaning of words; seek for the thought, the idea, the soul of the written or spoken matter; and after the facts are under-stood, the events, men or things comprehended, the meaning of the words perceived, and the thought grasped, they may be deposited in the chambers of the memory with the assurance that they will slumber there until they are needed and that whenever they are summoned they will instantly report for duty.”

Logical memory enters the field of creative thinking and here we reach the supreme glory of mental achievement. It is in this higher form that scholars refer to memory as ” the most wonderful of the faculties “—” the crowning glory of the intellect.” Reference has already been made to pairing ideas or objects in association. Logical memory goes still farther and includes grouping. With a broad grasp, it deals with combinations and whole sets of facts or related ideas in groups. It marshals facts and figures in logical sequences, calling forth the most comprehensive sweep of the mind to encompass them. Logical memory weighs and balances thought values—contrasts and compares ideas, binds together the images of the brain in association, links the past with the present, and calls forth the winged imagination. Logical memory creates masterpieces. It has clarified the vision of statesmen and guided the pen of historians. It inspired the Psalms and drafted the constitution of the United States.


But while we recognize and glorify Logical memory let us not forget the lowly Rote memory, for, after all, it is the foundation of the other. More than that, it has played its great part in the preservation of knowledge—down through the centuries. After all, repetition is the secret of permanency, and in the last analysis the Rote method is the secret of accuracy.

“In ages long since past, when written language was almost unknown, the knowledge and experience of one generation was passed along from father to son, from teacher to pupil, from mouth to ear. The utmost power of attention and concentration must have been employed by the hearer, for what was thus taught was retained and preserved intact and afterward de-livered, in turn, to the son or pupil of the hearer. It is said that these students could repeat teaching of the greatest length without the omission or change of a single word. The poems of the ancient Greeks were thus passed along from generation to generation. Thus were the sagas of the Norsemen transmitted. And in like manner were the philosophies of ancient Persia and India handed down along the ages. The Oriental teachers distrusted stone and papyrus and preferred that their sacred teachings be indelibly recorded in the brains of their pupils and thus endure as a living truth.” *

So we must come to the conclusion, after weighing all the evidence, that we cannot discredit either Logical or Rote memory nor can we dispense with either. Each has its place in a rational memory training—each has an equally important part to fulfill. Civilization needs both. You need both.






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