Amherst physics professor; Memorization and repetition without full understanding works as long as you persist

Physics professor on memorization and repetition

For truth to tell, in college I never felt fully comfortable in most of the courses I was taking. Always I felt that yes, I was doing the homework, and yes I was getting by decently on the tests—but no, I did not fully comprehend those words, those formulas and equations and vast principles that my teachers were so confidently espousing, and that I was so dutifully memorizing. Throughout it all I kept telling myself that in the long run I would understand things. For the time being, however, memorization and practice solving problems would carry me through.

And I was right. Memorization and practice solving problems did carry me through. And more than that: in the long run, I did figure things out, and I came to some degree of understanding of all the various subjects I was studying.

I am going through exactly this problem, albeit without the pressure of structured classes.  Many people take up calculus and physics and quit because they are not getting the big picture.

In my electronics coursework, I find I get the correct answer but I’m not sure how, and this is just algebra based stuff.

The Asians call it “grinding,” just brute force working through problems over and over.  That’s why they get the good jobs and Americans don’t.  American kids get discouraged too quickly, and don’t “grind.”

It’s far better to “grind” for 2,000  hours on calculus and physics before you ever set foot in a classroom.  Use the REA Problem Solvers series and the Schaums series, with the problems all worked out for you.  Even with the problems worked out, you might not understand a step and that’s when you need help, or grind away at it.  When you torture the data until it yields the answers, it’s a great dopamine rush similar to that which addicts video gamers, but it is a healthier rush.  Eventually you will grind your way to the point where you find studying physics is far more rewarding than video games.

Here’s the book for “grinding” your way to life success.  I went to the Defense Language Institute for Russian language after having done 4 years of college Russian.  It was one of the best times of my life.  For once, I was “top dog.”  It would have been even better had I put in 2,000 hours into calculus and physics, and then went and majored in physics and maybe an engineering in college.   This is a real path to power. It’s not a promise to get something for nothing.  You got to pay 2,000 hours of effort, but you will have a better life for it.  Even if you studied for 2,000 hours and didn’t go to college, for the rest of your life you will be much more intelligent.  You will get better jobs, you will get promoted faster, and in general you will always make better decisions.

As the Russians say, “Repetition is the Mother of Learning.”  I don’t post as much as I used to because I’m too busy grinding, and I hope I inspired you to grind too.



About Rob

Come with me if you want to live
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