Script & Storyboard
081127882 is a hard number to remember. [1] If you chunk the number into 081 127 882 its easier. [2] Cutting large bits of information into smaller pieces helps us to understand. [3] If we put small pieces back together, we can see the big picture and that helps us to remember. [4] The process is called Chunking. [5] This is how it works.
Our short-term is fast but tiny. [1] According to learning expert Dr. Oakley it can hold only 4 chunks of information at once. [2] So when new inputs arrive it has two ways to pick them up. [3] First, it can overwrite and forget what it has to make space for new information. [4] Or it can use mental effort to move a chunk from the working memory into the long-term memory where it can be stored and remembered later. [5]
This is why it’s almost impossible to recall 9 digits like 081127882. [1] There is simply not enough space. Once chunked, there is. [2]
There are several ways to chunk. You can break a larger piece into smaller bits [1], identify patterns [2] or group pieces to see the larger picture. [3] Once a chunk is created, you can use deliberate practice to move it into your long-term memory where it connects with existing experiences. Now it can be stored for years and if regularly used, accessed without much mental effort.[4]
To make this transfer more effective it helps to add context – which acts like memory super glue. [1] Great instructors [2] always try to give you the big picture [3.1] before going into detail. [3.3] If you study by yourself, you can skim through your textbook first by reading chapter headlines. [4] Learning facts without understanding the big picture is pretty useless,[5.3] as we will forget what we have learned very fast. [5.4]
Professional piano teachers first show their students the entire song so they understand the mood. [1] Then they ask their students to practice one measure at the time. [2.1] Once the part has been learned and the neural connections in the brain has been built, then students go to the next measure.[2.2] After all chunks can be played separately, they are combined until the entire piece is connected. [2.3] Now the student can play the piece with less mental effort. [3]
Chunking also helps to understand complex topics, say trade between China and India. [1] First study China: the people, the culture and the economy. [2] Then summarize and put what you learned in your own simple language. [P] Repeat the process for India. [3] Then study trade itself: the mechanics, benefits and problems. [4.3] Again, simplify to form an underlying idea. [4.4] At the end, you might just have summarized several books onto one napkin.[5]
Try chunking next time you feel the limits of your working memory. [1] Just like how clever restaurants chunks their menus into starters, mains, desserts, with 3-4 options each. [2] With chunking it’s easy to compare our options and make a decision. [3]
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