Preventing Forgetting from Long-Term Memory

Share Cognitive Science Implications for Teaching Mathematics

The most prevalent theory about long-term memory is that information stored in long-term memory will remain there for the life of the individual.  Forgetting information that is stored in long-term memory is caused by inadequate retrieval paths. A retrieval path is a collection of neurons, axons, dendrites, and synapses which lead from the storage location to short-term memory.

An unused retrieval path becomes weak. A retrieval path can be strengthened with exercise.

Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC) recognized the need to practice retrieval from memory.

Ebbinghaus (1885) identified and measured forgetting from long-term memory and recognized the beneficial effect of retrieval practice.

Current research clearly identifies three keystone study strategies, five additional effective study strategies, and three common strategies which should be avoided.

  • Three keystone study strategies
    • Practice Retrieving New Learning from Memory
    • Space Out Retrieval Practice
    • Interleave the Study of Different Problem Types
  • Five additional effective strategies
    • Elaboration
    • Reflection
    • Generation
    • Calibration
    • Mnemonics
  • Strategies which should be avoided
    • Massed practice
    • Excessive rereading
    • Excessive underlining

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