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How much do you trust your memory, and are you sure that what you remember really happened? According to the folks at Radiolab, every time we remember something, we alter the memory slightly. Put another way, the more we remember something, the less accurate the memory becomes!

In this lesson, students will explore the fidelity of a memory as a function of the number of remembrances. After constructing models of their own, they’ll compare a few linear and exponential models, and will explore implications of memory deterioration. Think you can trust your memory? Think again.

Students will

  • Construct a model for how memory loses its fidelity as the number of remembrances increases
  • Determine when a memory becomes semi-reliable or unreliable based on a model of its fidelity
  • Write equations and draw graphs for linear and exponential models of a graphs fidelity
  • Construct a model for the fidelity of memory for someone with superior autobiographical memory, and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of our ability to forget

Before you begin

Students should be able to write equations for and graph linear and exponential functions. They should also be able to interpret intersections between graphs within a context, and should be able to find the approximate locations of intersections (either algebraically or with technology).

Common Core Standards

Content Standards
Mathematical Practices


Radiolab, Marilu Henner