They never have to stop remembering.

I talked to someone recently who was surprised that I remembered something from high school chemistry. Isn’t that the point of learning general knowledge in high school? Aren’t we supposed to retain it?

When I teach Calculus II, I have less of a problem of students not knowing material from previous semesters than I do when I teach lower level courses. By that time, the students usually accept the need to retain the knowledge they’re taught. But on the final exam, about one-fifth of the class couldn’t put radians on a polar coordinate graph that was measured in degrees.

I didn’t warn them they needed that skill. It didn’t occur to me they needed a warning. Even if they didn’t know where 2π/3 was on the graph, they could have translated it to degrees and used that.

I gave a problem recently in a class where the students had to know normal body temperature and how to convert 0.35 hours into minutes. (Hint: it isn’t thirty-five minutes.) I expect general knowledge from the students. It’s not practical to teach them everything from scratch.


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