If everything goes as planned, this is the last semester of school for my husband and me. If it doesn’t go as planned, we will have to repeat college algebra next semester. This is not a big deal, since we recently found out they won’t have a winter commencement this year. Cap and gowns are scheduled for next May. So, we would have to wait for that part anyway. Even so, who wants to repeat college algebra? I definitely do not. However, I did discover over the summer that I do very well with the math. I studied for a few weeks and retook the compass test, doubling what I needed to get to pass out of refresher courses on beginning and intermediate algebra. Those options are available even after a student has started college. My husband took one of those early on and then retook the compass test. While he was taking that class, I peeked in to see how it was going. We learned a lot about how to tackle those subjects that seem to get away from us. It happens to everyone who ever went to school. We lose track of a subject and assume we are “bad at math” or “don’t like history”. Is it true?
In the beginning algebra class, concepts are broken down into very small pieces. Khan Academy uses this same technique. Each component is broken down so small, that I have often worked on concepts ahead of my skill level in Khan Academy, because the small area I’m working on is one small piece of a larger skill. This is the way it is with everything, but we often don’t realize it when we are plodding along through an unfamiliar or difficult subject. If we have to learn too many new terms or concepts at once to tack one lesson, it won’t be long before we give up and say, “I’m just not good at this”. Wrong! Our short term memory is very limited. We can take in maybe 10 new pieces of information, but on average, 7 is about it. 7 or 10, either way, we have to plant those seeds in the long-term memory.
I wrote the other day of my efforts to access my long-term memory and pair it with my new music lessons. This week, I’m taking the time to go back and review, placing concepts and assignments into organized areas of my long-term memory, so that I can perform well for the rest of the semester. For me, the key to doing this is organization. I am not at all naturally organized, but I require some kind of coherent organization that makes sense to me and the way my mind works. I recently finished an art journal project that I started 2 1/2 years ago. I took a composition notebook with graph paper pages and started drawing and writing, cutting and pasting things into this notebook. It is now completely full and fat. I showed my youngest son and said, “This is my brain. This is the way my mind is organized.” He said he wished his was organized that way. I asked him to draw a picture for me of how his is organized, and he a drew a grid with neatly arranged blocks and each one containing neatly arranged files or more boxes. I loved it. I wanted all of my cabinets and closets to look like that. 😉
So, this week, fall break, no vacation. Not this time. Only 8 more weeks of school. We can do it.