Teachers and students alike are familiar with the technique of memorisation: to learn something completely so that it can later be recalled or repeated. In mathematics classes, teachers often encourage students to use their memories through activities such as rehearsal, routine exercises and drills.
To find out how students around the world learn mathematics, PISA asked them which learning strategy best described their own approach to the subject. Students were asked whether they agreed with statements that corresponded to memorisation strategies.
PISA findings indicate that students around the world often use memorisation to leam mathematics. On average in almost every country, when students were asked about the learning strategies they use, they agreed with one of the four possible memorisation-related statements.
That most students use memorisation to a greater or lesser degree is not surprising given that memorisation does have some advantages as a learning strategy, particularly when it is not just mechanical memorisation. Memorising can lay the foundation for conceptual understanding by giving students concrete facts on which to reflect. It can also lead to mathematics "automaticity", speeding up basic arithmetic computations and leaving more time for deeper mathematical reasoning.