{December 22, 2008}   can I get any lazier?

I’ve never really cared much for studying. Trying to memorize facts seems incredibly boring (although digits of pi aren’t ;) and it’s always a struggle to actually get anything done.

This semester i had two math classes – and sfu math classes are hard, so i can’t just ignore them and expect an A. ;) So i decided to use a tool pete uses for language training to help me memorize the boring bits of the math classes (which turned out to be almost all of them).

It’s called anki, and it’s a cute little flashcard program written in pyqt4. It also has a web interface and a client for the iphone iirc, although i haven’t used those. It was originally designed for learning japanese, but it’s expanded since then. It’s got LaTeX support, so writing crazy math equations isn’t a problem. The spaced learning system trains your brain to remember all the facts you’ve entered – all you have to do is enter those facts, and then actually use the software for a few minutes each day. :)

I didn’t start using it until after the first midterm, and i haven’t been very consistent with the actually-using-it bit… But i think it really helped me. I had pretty much no motivation to learn the material; i seem to have lost interest in math. :( But entering facts into anki helped me think about it – i had to break things down into little pieces that’d work well as flashcards – and kept me reading the textbook when i couldn’t be bothered with the homework.

One thing that doesn’t work so well: cramming a bunch of data in right before a midterm. Spaced learning doesn’t work when there’s no time for things to be spaced in ;) my second midterms didn’t go so well. By the time the final came, though, i had more than half of each course’s material in there. I had to study the things that weren’t in there – a lot of which i’d completely forgotten and had to relearn – but for subjects that were in anki, i just skimmed the material and looked at a couple of things i’d been getting wrong a lot.

I think this worked out pretty well. I got a nice mark on the final for macm 201. I didn’t do as well on math 152, but i still ended up with a B+. Some things anki just can’t help with; evaluating integrals takes more.. Lateral thinking, i think. Just knowing a bunch of facts isn’t enough. but when material *can* be broken down into lots of little facts, anki signifigantly reduces the effort required – and turns something i’d normally find horridly boring into something almost like a game, where i can just keep clicking and answring questions as it asks them. :)

so if you’ve got lots of facts you need to memorize, and you don’t like doing it (does anyone?), give anki a try. :)

odrzut says:

I don’t know if its possible already, but this looks like a perfect thing to use “get hot new stuff” with.

I mean – when somebody already entered informations about something into anki, why should everyone do it again?

Andreas says:

My tutor in first semester said “Derivation is a craft, integration is an art”. This is in physics, where interesting integrals crop up all the time.
Besides, you can always be even lazier – think of being too lazy to get or cook food when sitting in front of the computer :)

Chani says:

@odrzut: actually, I heard the latest version does allow people to share “decks” of cards. however, it’s using the guy’s own server, no standards like ghns.

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