Some skills you don’t need past graduation: geometry, cursive, the ability to dissect a frog. But memorization is not one of them. Far beyond your final spelling bee, your memory either saves you from—or delivers you to—public humiliation. Just think about the last time you forgot the name of a very important person.
Memory is important in adulthood because it also enables all kinds of life-enriching learning, from remembering several seasons’ worth of football statistics (a very big deal to very loyal fans) to learning a new language.
But keeping it sharp requires practice. Just ask Ed Cooke, who can memorize the order of a shuffled deck of cards in 45 seconds. A fierce competitor in memory tournaments, Cooke was crowned a Grand Master of Memory in his early twenties. (As of last year, there were only 151 Grand Masters of Memory in the world.)
Cooke wanted to figure out the very best way to learn as fast as possible, so he cofounded Memrise, an online language learning program devoted to that mission. “Science actually hasn’t really asked the question, ‘What’s the fastest way to learn?’” Cooke says. “It’s discovered hundreds of things that help learning, but it hasn’t discovered the perfect recipe.”