Or, more precisely, practice makes perfect, but only BRIEFLY.


Sustained practice, and then you’re in the ballpark of practice makes the kind of perfect I was hoping for.

Originally posted in July 2011:

I was going over my May 2011 SAT the other day and found myself nearly in tears over the fact that I couldn’t begin to do the following problem:


Frustrated that I couldn’t remember how to do the problem, I researched how to improve memory and discovered an article by Daniel Willingham: Practice Makes Perfect — But Only If You Practice Beyond the Point of Perfection


It is difficult to overstate the value of practice. For a new skill to become automatic or for new knowledge to become long-lasting, sustained practice, beyond the point of mastery, is necessary.


The unexpected finding from cognitive science is that practice does not make perfect. Practice until you are perfect and you will be perfect only briefly. What’s necessary is sustained practice. By sustained practice I mean regular, ongoing review or use of the target material…….This kind of practice past the point of mastery is necessary to meet any of these three important goals of instruction: acquiring facts and knowledge, learning skills, or becoming an expert.


When we refer to “practice,” it is important to be clear that it differs from play (which is done purely for one’s own pleasure), performance (which is done for the pleasure of others), and work (which is done for compensation). Practice is done for the sake of improvement. Practice, therefore, requires concentration and requires feedback about whether or not progress is being made. Plainly put, practice is not easy. It requires a student’s time and effort, and it is, therefore, worth considering when it is appropriate.


llustrations by Jennifer Orkin Lewis