Science - All in the imagination

The best way to memorise is also the simplest - visualisation

Modern research into memory and the mnemonic systems has demonstrated that the earliest scientists, including Chinese, Greek and Roman thinkers, had a more advanced understanding of memory than modern industrial and information-age models. They knew that memory was not a function of rote learning, or linear filing systems, or the dominance of words and numbers, but was instead based on three essential pillars: imagination, association and location.

If these principles are applied properly, using synaesthesia (the integration of the multiple senses), exaggeration, and the sophisticated art of metaphor, memory of anything, including all sciences (also geography, history, and the arts), becomes an easy, creative and enjoyable process.

For example, one of the most universal (and I use the word advisedly!) memory failure areas in science is forgetting the order of the planets. A simple application of memory techniques lodges the correct sequence instantaneously.

In the solar system there are four small planets, followed by the four giant planets, followed by one dwarf planet. Next to the sun is a little thermometer filled with the metal that measures temperature: Mercury. The sun is hotter so the mercury rises and eventually explodes and you hear and see all these little balls of mercury: pure imagination and association.

Then there is a little, unbelievably beautiful planet: Venus. Venus picks up a ball of mercury and throws it with god-like power to the patio of your neighbour, located on Earth (where you live). Your neighbour is a little (last little planet), red-faced, war-like (who is the god of war?) man carrying a chocolate bar. Mars is coming out to cause trouble when a 100-metre-tall giant comes to your rescue: the biggest planet by far, and king of the gods with a big J-shaped lock of hair on his forehead - Jupiter.

You look up at Jupiter and on his enormous T-shirt is the word "SUN". Those are the first letters of the next three big planets: Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. You look again at Jupiter and on his head is a tiny Walt Disney dog barking with enthusiasm as he sees the story unfold - Pluto, the dwarf planet.

A true understanding of memory and its application to learning in the sciences and the arts leads one to the realisation that all subjects are imagination-based, colourful, interrelated, intriguing and fabulously exciting.

Tony Buzan is the inventor of Mind Mapping and president of ThinkBuzan


TES Resources

Try Sidney Logon's chemistry memory game to match the symbol and its element, or aking1's biology mind maps for cells and the human impact on the environment.

TES Community

Visit the TES forums for ideas to help with projects on space and planets, including tips on decorating your classroom with a space theme.

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