Students are often surprised by how quickly they forget things they’ve just learned. This is often because they don’t understand that the mastery path is a muddy slope: If you stop moving forward as soon as you understand something, you’ll quickly slip backward and forget.
Only a tiny minority of students can form a long-term memory of the math they’re learning (or Spanish or chemistry, etc.) by just doing the homework. You’re probably not one of them. To form real, lasting memories, you’ll have to do more than what is asked of you.
And this is actually good news! It means that the reason you forget things is that you’re a normal human who simply hasn’t been putting in the right amount or type of effort. The problem is not you. The problem is that you haven’t been studying and practicing enough, or, if you have been putting in enough time, you haven’t been using effective study techniques.
Forgetting is just the natural consequence of choosing not to study and practice. It’s what happens automatically if you do nothing; it’s the default option. But just because it’s a passive option, doesn’t mean it’s not a choice. If you want to remember, you’ll have to make the proactive choice of doing extra study and practice.
Chris Loper has been an academic coach for Northwest Educational Services since 2014.
Chris also offers habit coaching, helping busy adults with habit formation and productivity.
In 2021, he published a humorous memoir titled Wood Floats and Other Brilliant Observations, a book that blends crazy stories with practical life lessons.
He lives in Issaquah, WA, where he is the owner of South Cove Tutoring.