What is Quizterix and how does it impact UK education?

Quizterix is a flashcard-based learning environment for historic events wrapped up in playable games. However, it goes far beyond traditional flashcards, as it includes a range of memorization techniques that make remembering facts, years, and the answers to hundreds of related questions easy.

This learning environment is as much about a particular topic from the History syllabus as it is about building transferable skills. Building up the ability to effortlessly memorize hundreds of historical facts transfers to other subjects, especially the ones that rely on building a factual knowledge base: Biology, Geography, English (especially Literature), Sociology, Geology, and Psychology – but also parts of the Sciences. Equations and formulae in Maths and Physics, The periodic system in Chemistry, the names and characteristics of astronomical bodies, micro and macroeconomic concepts and indicators, and much more.

Quizterix promotes a brain-friendly learning and teaching style that benefits students and teachers alike. It starts from simple, and largely unstructured factual knowledge. It presents this knowledge in a way that makes it tens (with practice hundreds) of times easier to remember. It gives students a solid basis that makes the next step of understanding easier to take.

How Quizterix Works

There are things people have a good memory for and there are other things where we struggle. Historic dates and facts are not easy to memorize for anyone. We are much better with funny images and stories.

This is why competitive memory champions do not cram in numbers directly. They wrap facts that are really hard to remember in things that are much easier to memorize. Numbers turn into words that stand in for the numbers. 65 turns into Jiving Lions. Karate Zebra is a 70. There is a standard to do this translation, which is called the Major System.

If you stick to it, you can share them with others – as we do in Quizterix. If you get some experience with these techniques, you will be able to make much better use of your memory. Did you know that the world record for memorizing random events and their dates stands at 241 in only 5 minutes?   

Memory champions use highly efficient memorization tricks. They also train hard. We use a simple system to give you a good introduction to mnemonics that work well and may get you started with even better methods!

The anchor point of our system is an often absurd or funny image. The human mind can process an image in 13 milliseconds, much faster than text. It is also a great way to use the Von Restorff effect (silly things are a lot easier to remember) to our advantage. The description of the little scene is in fact an encoding for the event and its date. Here we have a Cocky Neanderthal Waterskiing. The game teaches and practices the Major System that simply turns numbers into letters. There is a card in the game so that beginners can look up the Major System whenever they need it. C is a 7, N is a 2. Cocky Neanderthal is a 72. Waterskiing creates a memory hook for Watergate. With a bit of training, our stone age friend and his shades pop into our minds when we think about Watergate.

Before you start to play with Quizterix cards

Memorization techniques and how they work are counter-intuitive for those, who have not experienced them themselves. It is not obvious why using seemingly unrelated silly images and mnemonics would form faster and deeper memories than “just” brute force memorization.

If you are in that camp: The reason why these techniques are used by memory champions is that they are highly effective. None of the competitors memorizes a deck of cards by brute force. They memorize a funny, grotesque, and absurd walk through a memory palace full of little stories and images just like those in Quizterix. With training, the human mind can memorize a deck of cards in 14 seconds. Or 48 decks in one hour. Or the dates of 241 historic events in 5 minutes. These feats take training and refined methods. Quizterix provides a gentle introduction, a beginner’s version, of these techniques. It is easy to pick up and requires no upfront training. It also performs much better than brute force.

Teachers are under time pressure. Efficiency is imperative. Therefore it is important to realize:

When your students have a giggle about leeches in the sewers or a rattlesnake kissing a doctor, they do not waste time. They memorize using the most efficient techniques available.

The immediate benefits

Quizterix teaches a comprehensive knowledge base of a given topic. These are dozens of events and their dates, and hundreds of related facts. It also teaches memorization techniques beneficial for other topics and subjects. Even a beginner level of these skills accelerates the mundane task of memorizing facts for an assessment manifold. What takes hours to memorize by brute force can be reduced to a few minutes.

This approach facilitates a revised bottom-up teaching style. Traditional teaching is mostly or partly top-down or a mixed approach. A general concept is introduced (e.g. The Cold War is an era of outstanding technological progress), and then facts are discussed that support the concept (e.g. nuclear arms, satellites, high-altitude aircraft, the moon landing). After a couple of Quizterix games, students already know the facts, and lessons can be used to stitch the factual knowledge together. The conversation can be inverted: Which of the events we have are related to technology? Can you remember which years these events were in? What was their significance? Can you think of another period in history where so much technological progress was made in such a short time? A conclusion that students reach all by themselves is much more memorable than a foregone one.

We use the metaphor of memory pegs for Quizterix knowledge. These are strong and sticky and keep new knowledge in place for long enough to be thoroughly processed. In the student’s mind, they form the anchor points for Bartlett cognitive schemas. With more and deeper knowledge, forming insights and understanding accelerates and persists.

The long term benefits

Memory tricks come down to Ebbinghaus’ forgetting curves. The flatter they are, the easier things are to remember and the longer they will stay. Unlike with cramming for a final assessment, your students will end up with vastly increased memory strength. Memory strengths after cramming sessions do not last longer than a few days. It is a common experience that all but the most fundamental pieces of knowledge will not outlive the following term. A few Quizterix games produce memory strengths of months and years. Students will come back after the summer holiday and still remember much of last term.

And then there is the social element around gameplay. You will find a discount code in your pack so that students can purchase their own version of Quizterix at less than half price. Playing with adults, especially those with advanced age, triggers lots of knowledge exchange and make talking about History at home natural and enjoyable!

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