Educators educating Educators

Jan 19

Too Much Memory

The Real Rain Man: Too much memory: Kim Peek (November 11, 1951 – December 19, 2009), the original Rain Man

Peek, Kim

Kim Peek, a mega savant, could read a page of a book in ten seconds (about a book per hour), remembered everything he had read, can recall 12,000 books, does formidable calculations in his head, and remembered music he had heard decades ago. He is the only savant know who could read two pages of a book simultaneously – one with each eye, regardless of whether it was upside down or sideways on. His ability to retain 98% of the information he absorbed led to his designation “mega-savant”.

By the time he was nine-moths old he was expected to be mentally impaired for life. At age 16 months old, he taught himself to read children’s books. At age 6, his family was offered a lobotomy. His parents declined, and Kim went on to memorize the entire bible before his seventh birthday. Expelled on his first day for being disruptive (no special education laws at the time), he was home schooled. By age 14, Kim had completed the high school curriculum, though local authorities would not recognize the achievement and refused to award him a certificate

By the age 18, he read and memorized the complete works of Shakespeare and every story in every volume of the condensed Reader’s Digest books. He used the telephone directory for exercise in mental arithmetic, adding each column of the seven-digit numbers together in his head until he reached figures in the trillions. Kim had faultless knowledge of the calendar stretching back 2,000 years.

The five universities that studied him decided that he was a genius in at least 15 subjects when most savants reach a similar level in one or two subjects.

Kim’s head was 30% larger than normal at birth, which required support physical support because of its weight. As an adult, he had the mental reasoning of a child of five and was unable to dress himself, cook, shave, or brush his teeth without help. He walked at age 4 and in a sidelong manner, had impaired motor ability, had difficulty with abstractions, and below average intelligence (IQ=87); however, he scored very high in some subtests.

He was a sluggish baby who cried frequently, and doctors discovered he had a blister inside his skull that had damage the left hemisphere of his brain, which controls language and motor skills. In addition, he had damage to the cerebellum and absences of a corpus callosum - the connections between the two hemispheres.


“If we can control the attention of the child, we solve the problems of education.” Maria Montessori

This month Ed Tip will examine how to improve students' learning by activating their attention.