I have been thinking about memorization software today. I have been experimenting with assorted implementations of such software for several years, but only for the last few months have I been using them regularly and effectively, mostly because I finally have very strong motivation.
The software that I refer to is known as spaced repetition software, or S.R.S. The central concept of spaced repetition is that the best way of remembering something for the long-term is to remember it just at the moment you were about to forget it. S.R.S measures your memory based upon your self-evaluation of how easy you remember the answer to questions, then calculates the ideal time in the future to present you with the same item of knowledge again.
The original software package is known as Supermemo. The Supermemo algorithms are the basis for some of the other systems, and the Supermemo website is still the best source of knowledge for learning about learning using spaced repetition. I do not use Supermemo (although I do have it on my computer) but I have made several attempts at learning to use it, and I do still intend to return to it some day. I recommend at least reading:
- General principles of Supermemo
- 20 rules of formulating knowledge in learning
- Supermemo Learning Decalog
The Supermemo website sells the idea of spaced repetition in a very compelling way. After first reading about spaced repetition a few years ago, I was determined to use it effectively in my life, and now I am.
So, the package the I am actually using is known as Mnemosyne. Although it has less functionality than current versions of Supermemo, it is a very simple, effective, user-friendly implementation of spaced repetition.
Interestingly, I can find very little discussion on the web about using this software to learn mathematics. The Mnemosyne website does have a well constructed card set for mathematics, which uses Latex. If you are not a Latex user already, it can be a real challenge to get these cards to work. I spent an entire day downloading the Latex (actually Miktex) software and getting it to function, but it still does weird things to my computer.
In any case, I needed to build my own card set for probability. I decided to use plain text with simple html tags for my cards. This makes simple, transferable cards, which although not formatted perfectly, are still easily readable. Tomorrow, I will describe my technique of formulating cards.
I should mention another very slick program known as Anki. It has more functionality than Mnemosyne, but it is still very simple. When I first downloaded this program, I downloaded a deck for learning Mandarin. Each card has spoken, visual, and written elements. There are add-ons which allow the proper appearance of Chinese characters, and there are many, many pre-existing decks for Japanese, Chinese, and other languages.