Another cherished belief of the progressive education movement -- rote memorization is bad and should be ditched! -- bites the dust:
In a finding sure to inflame the math wars, a team of neuroscientists has revealed the crucial role played by rote memorization in the growing brains of young math students.
Memorizing the answers to simple math problems, such as basic addition or the multiplication tables, marks a key shift in a child’s cognitive development, because it helps bridge the gap from counting on fingers to complex calculation, according to the new brain scanning research.
The progression from counting on fingers to simply remembering that, for example, six plus three equals nine, parallels physical changes in a child’s brain, in which the hippocampus, a key brain structure for memory, gradually takes over from the pre-frontal parietal cortex, an area of higher order reasoning.
I think I've mentioned this before, but I did a few plays in high school, and I swear that during the times I had to memorize blocks of dialogue, I felt sharper in all my classes, believed I was getting more out of what I was studying. This article, if I'm reading it right, doesn't exactly say that memorization improves the brain, merely that it signals one more thing the brain can do as cognitive functions develop. But I think memorization exercises the brain in a way nothing else can.