Yes, Yes, and Yes. I could not agree more!
In this article from TIME, an English teacher describes her negativity towards being required to have her students memorize word roots only to discover how beneficial it was. And that they didn’t hate it! Fancy that!
In an account of her experience in English Journal, she wrote, “asking students to do rote memorization was the antithesis of what I believed in most.” Still, her department head insisted on it, so Kail went forward with the attitude, “I’ll do it, but I won’t like it.” She was sure her students wouldn’t like it, either.
Suzanne Kail’s experience is instructive. As soon as she began teaching her students the Greek and Latin origins of many English terms — that the root sta means “put in place or stand,” for example, and that cess means “to move or withdraw” — they eagerly began identifying familiar words that incorporated the roots, like “statue” and “recess.”Kail’s students started using these terms in their writing, and many of them told her that their study of word roots helped them answer questions on the SAT and on Ohio’s state graduation exam. (Research confirms that instruction in word roots allows students to learn new vocabulary and figure out the meaning of words in context more easily.) For her part, Kail reports that she no longer sees rote memorization as “inherently evil.” Although committing the word roots to memory was a necessary first step, she notes, “the key was taking that old-school method and encouraging students to use their knowledge to practice higher-level thinking skills.”
That’s also true of another old-fashioned method: drilling math facts, like the multiplication table. Although many progressive educators decry what they call “drill and kill” (kill students’ love of learning, that is), rapid mental retrieval of basic facts is a prerequisite for doing more complex, and more interesting, kinds of math. The only way to achieve this “automaticity,” so far as anyone has been able to determine, is to practice. And practice. Indeed, many experts who have observed the wide gap between the math scores of American and Chinese students on international tests attribute the Asian students’ advantage to their schools‘ relentless focus on memorizing math facts. Failure to do so can effectively close off the higher realms of mathematics: A study published in the journal Math Cognition found that most errors made by students working on complex math problems were due to a lack of automaticity in basic math facts.