You are going to read a magazine article about a man who teaches children how to improve t
A An obvious need
B Gaining attention
C The odder the better
D Making sense of information
E Trade secrets
F Academic approval
G A change of focus
H Selected memories
I An ancient skill
Jerome Burne talks to a magician who teaches children ways to remember facts.
The Greek philosophers knew about it and it could still dramatically improve children's school results today, except that no one teaches it. "It' is a very old technique for making your memory better. Try memorising this series of random numbers: 3, 6, 5, 5, 2, 1,2, 4. About as meaningful as dates in history or equations in maths, aren't they？ Chances are you won't remember them in five minutes, let alone in five hours. However, had you been at a lecture given at a school in the south of England last month, you would now be able to fix them in your head for five days, five weeks, in fact for ever."
'I am going to give you five techniques that will enable you to remember anything you need to know at school," promised lecturer lan Robinson to a fascinated audience of a hundred schoolchildren. He slapped his hand down on the table. In his other life, Robinson is an entertainer, and he was using all the tricks he had picked up in his career. "When I've finished in two hours' time, your work will be far more effective and productive. Anyone not interested, leave now." The entire room sat still, glued to their seats.
When he entertains, Robinson calls himself the Mind Magician. He specialises in doing magic tricks that look totally impossible, and then he reveals that they involve nothing more mysterious than good old-fashioned trickery. '1 have always been interested in tricks involving memory being able to reel off the order of cards in a pack, that sort of thing," he explains.
Robinson was already lecturing to schools on his magic techniques when it struck him that students might find memory techniques even more valuable. "It wasn't a difficult area to move into, as the stutf's all there in books." So he summarised everything to make a two-hour lecture about five techniques.
What Robinson's schoolchildren get are methods that will be familiar to anyone who has dipped into any one of a dozen books on memory. The difference is that Robinson's approach is firmly aimed at schoolchildren. The basic idea is to take material that is random and meaningless—musical scales, the bones of the arm—and give them a structure. That series of numbers at the beginning of the article fits in here. Once you think of it as the number of days in the year—365—and the number of weeks—52—and so on, it suddenly becomes permanently memorable.
"You want to learn a list of a hundred things？ A thousand？ No problem," says Robinson. The scandal is that every child is not taught the techniques from the beginning of their school life. The schoolchildren who were watching him thought it was brilliant. "1 wish I'd been told this earlier," commented Mark, after Robinson had shown them how to construct "mental journeys."
Essentially, you visualise a walk down a street, or a trip round a room, and pick the points where you will put the things you want to remember—the lamppost, the fruit bowl. Then in each location you put a visual representation of your list—phrasal verbs, historical dates, whatever—making them as strange