Learn by understanding, not by memorizing

Understanding is much more important than memorization. Of course, memorization is also an integral component when it comes to learning things in academics. But students tend to rely more upon memorization when it comes to learning rather than trying to understand things conceptually. When you understand a concept, you will remember it for years whereas when you memorize the same, you will remember it for merely for days and gradually forget it. Conceptual understanding helps you understand the information on a deeper level unlike memorizing which merely touches the surface. Feynman believed that names do not constitute knowledge and that when you have memorized the name of something doesn’t mean you know stuffs about it. Knowing the name of something doesn’t mean you understand it. We talk in fact-deficient, obfuscating generalities to cover up our lack of understanding. He once said in an interview,

See that bird? It’s a brown-throated thrush, but in Germany it’s called a halzenfugel, and in Chinese they call it a chung ling, and even if you know all those names for it, you still know nothing about the bird. You only know something about people: what they call the bird. Now that thrush sings, and teaches its young to fly, and flies so many miles away during the summer across the country, and nobody knows how it finds its way.

Richard Feynman
Feynman: Knowing versus Understanding

Richard Feynman on the differences of merely knowing how to reason mathematically and understanding how and why things are physically analyzed in the way they are.


“Feynman’s Invaluable Advices For Students”. 2021. Medium. https://medium.com/@PhysicsHistory/feynmans-invaluable-advices-for-students-3b3f42c87e16.

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