Brute Force Memorization,or Повторение мать учения, is how Russians and Chinese master STEM

In the USA, there is a certain “snobbery” among math teachers, who think that “Problem Solvers” type books are “cheating,” at learning math and physics.  You’re supposed to just have the problem, and the final answer, and come up with all the intermediate steps yourself, or you’re a dummy go major in English.

My math/physics tutor advocates this.  It’s a mistake, and it keeps a lot of good people out of STEM.

Generating the intermediate steps between question and answer requires a familiarity with the subject matter that people simply do not have.  They can acquire it, however, by practicing and memorizing thousands of problems.

The REA Problem Solvers books, and the Schaum’s Outlines, are a blessing to the auto-didact because they show step by step how a problem is done.  If you understand each step, then you got it.  You’re going to be able to learn that subject.  If you cannot follow Schaum’s or a Problem Solver’s book, get a tutor or do something less advanced and build up to it.

I have spoken to both Russians and Chinese engineers about how they learned math, and they said by putting in thousands of hours of problems. They weren’t instant geniuses, like American math teachers seem to expect.

With the Problems Solvers books, you start off slow on a topic, but by the end of the chapter you are slamming the problems out.  And when you finish it, what do you do?  You do it again.  And if you don’t just slam it out, then you do it a third time.

Повторение мать учения

Repetition is the mother of learning.

It’s interesting to note that Charles Dickens lampooned memorization in education in his book “Hard Times,” and this cliched memorization-phobia has persisted in Anglo-American education ever since.

I learned Russian language by memorization 30 years ago.   I still speak Russian to this day.

I am learning math and physics by brute force memorization, and it’s working.  I don’t need a teacher or a tutor.

We are importing our engineers from the lands where memorization is used in education.

I can teach you, to teach yourself.  You can add value to yourself, from the comfort of your home, with nothing but books and notebooks and a smart phone and youtube.

Here’s a lecture about Jewish math students being excluded from Moscow State University in the 60’s and 70’s, so they started their own math group outside of MGU.

What he is describing that Jewish math students did for themselves in the USSR, we can do for ourselves, in our own way.  He notes that to do pure mathematics, all you need is a pencil and paper, you don’t need expensive equipment.  In other words, we can add massive value to ourselves, without funding or institutional support.  We do it by self teaching and memorization.

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About mindweapon

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6 Responses to Brute Force Memorization,or Повторение мать учения, is how Russians and Chinese master STEM

  1. Glen Haven says:

    Damn. If someone would have shown me this stuff in high school (many years pre mass internet), I would have been a lot happier because I wouldn’t have wasted so much time trying to think in a way that I wasn’t naturally attuned to. Not that many people are naturally adept at complex mathmatics. Which equates to a lot of time wasting trying to decipher the one way. Just reframe thinking… Make a different way.

    Excellent idea and resource. Who cares how learning is done? What matters is the result. If the system demands results, so be it. There are more ways to achieve it. Thanks.

    • mindweapon says:

      A lot more Americans would speak foreign languages if it wasn’t for Dickens bashing memorization.

      Self teaching is amazing too. When I was learning Russian in college I was reading Russian for hours on my own time. My peers were all dependent on teachers and did poorly.

      Teachers should be viewed as glorified exam proctors and the providers of laboratories.

  2. Mr. Rational says:

    The difference between the naturals, the grinds and the unable is how many repetitions it takes to “get it”.  The naturals will get it the first time, the grinds will take N > 1 times, and the unable will never get it.

    Yes, there are people who cannot understand an underlying principle no matter how many specific cases they have memorized.  Stupid people exist.  Having major mental limitations is part and parcel of being stupid.  If you have difficulty understanding just how profoundly this affects things like culture, watch a few dozen videos of TNB on YouTube and remind yourself that such behavior is the natural product of the mental limitations (e.g. poor executive function) and tendencies (e.g hair-trigger violence) of Africans.

    • mindweapon says:

      White guys need to grind like the Chinese. Our guys give up too quickly. I spent 6 weeks learning vectors. But in the end, I nailed them.

      • Mr. Rational says:

        A vector is just an ordered series of numbers.  Velocity in 3-space is a 3-vector, but any one-dimensional array of numbers is also called a vector.

        This concept is why linear algebra is handy; it provides a mathematical basis for a lot of what goes on in physics.  For instance, rotating a 3-vector in space is just a multiplication of the vector by a 3×3 matrix.

        OBjoke:  What’s a polar bear?  It’s a rectangular bear after a coordinate conversion.

  3. I didn’t know Dickens killed rote learning. I love his stories! Makes me sad.

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