What’s a Memory Master?
At right: Hannah Tully, 2016 National Memory Master
The canon of memoria, or the art of memory, originates from the five canons of rhetoric. It is a fundamentally human activity because it provides a basis of information from which we may ask “why?” and begin to reason. Young students memorize easily through intensity, duration and repetition.
The art of memoria is distinct from rote memorization. Memorizing a set of facts for a test or music for a recital is not the same as developing skills to retain information long-term. For instance, knowing multiplication tables through the 15s allows a budding algebra student to focus on equation solving without the distraction of having to think very much about simple math. Knowing a timeline of historical facts from both Western and Eastern civilizations equips a high school art student to better understand philosophical and political influences on the artists.
Parents and tutors support students aged 4–11 in the Foundations program as they learn facts from history, geography, English grammar, Latin, math and science, plus portions of the Bible. They use memorization resources such as the popular audio CD and timeline cards. (For a more detailed description of the Foundations program and associated memory work, please see our Foundations program page.)
Directors in licensed communities bestow the title "Memory Master" on students who successfully recite ALL of the memory facts from the current year's memory work. They get awards, such as a Memory Master t-shirt, certificates, and candy.
In 2016, Leigh Bortins, founder of Classical Conversations, created the National Memory Master competition. Students from all across the United States competed to be a finalist on our Capstone Cruise and have a chance to earn the $10,000 grand prize of National Memory Master.
Read more about Hannah Tully's journey to National Memory Master on Writers Circle.
"You all were such a blessing to our family over the last week. Your children are articulate, kind, and just fun to be around. It was so THERAPEUTIC to sit around and talk with all of the moms… a welcome peaceful time during the roller-coaster of emotions that went along with the competition! It meant a lot that so many of you opened up during our talks together, helping me to relax. Thank you. Wish we could all hang out more. :-)
How does the competition work?
Directors first test students in local licensed communities early in the second half of the year. Then, memory master candidates submit presentations online to the National Memory Master review board at Classical Conversations (to see Hannah’s video, click here). Sixteen finalists and one parent each are then awarded tickets to sail on the Capstone Cruise, where an all-day bee-style competition is held. The grand prize winner is announced that same day.
For more detailed information, you are welcome to view the Rules Book governing entry submission
“May I take this moment to let you all know how thankful I am to the Lord for having had the opportunity to spend the cruise with you all. I echo April in saying that your children are genuinely kind and delightful. I enjoyed getting to know them as much as I enjoyed getting to know you! Brushing shoulders with you has left its mark on me and I am certain I am the better for it.”
How should our family plan to enter?
Because memory master begins with the local licensed community, stay tuned to announcements from your local director about the details of National Memory Master for 2017. We will be working to continuously make this competition better for our families!
How can I help with National Memory Master?
Encourage your student and the other students in your community to perfect their memory work! We believe this lays important groundwork for discussion and understanding that will occur in the Challenge program. Challenge students often refer back to historical events, math drills, and other Foundations work that is seminal to their mastery of important eras, philosophies, and higher math and science.
15 Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. 16 Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.
—1 Timothy 4:15–16