A common question in a first or second year university math class is “how do you remember all this stuff?” The answer is a little complicated, but the solution is simple — the students who ask this question need to change strategies. They are usually trying to *memorize* math rather than *remember* it..

Most students try to cram only the math they need to pass a test or quiz into their heads just before they need it. This may or may not work — depending on skill and aptitude — but it grants almost no ability to remember the math. This is often deadly because math is cumulative. It also absolutely maximizes the amount of work you need to do. When you memorize something — especially in a hurry and only for a particular purpose — you are putting a pile of individual facts into your head in a semi-organized fashion so that they are all available. This is difficult and the individual nuggets are often not durable. Remembering math, on the other hand, means that you have used the math enough that not only the individual parts, but the relationships between the parts, are familiar to you. Remembering math is actually easier that memorizing it, but you need to get to the state where you can remember it through practice. That is what this post is about.