In the context of preparing for math or science Olympiads, rote learning and conceptual learning are two distinct approaches to studying.
Rote learning refers to memorizing formulas, equations, theorems, and other mathematical or scientific concepts without fully understanding their meaning or derivation. This method can be useful in solving problems that require quick recall of information. For example, in a math Olympiad, you may need to recall a formula for a certain type of problem quickly and use it to get to the answer.
Conceptual learning, on the other hand, involves a deep understanding of the underlying concepts and principles. It requires taking the time to understand why a formula or theorem works the way it does, and how it can be applied to different types of problems. This type of learning can be more time-consuming, but it helps in developing problem-solving skills, creativity and a better understanding of the subject.
In Olympiad exams, a balance between rote learning and conceptual learning is required. You need to be able to recall information quickly, but you also need to be able to think critically and apply what you have learned to solve novel problems. In other words, while rote learning is a tool, conceptual understanding is the key to success.
So, the bottom line is that while both rote learning and conceptual learning have their own advantages and limitations, they are both important and complement each other. To excel in math or science Olympiads, students should strive to balance these two approaches to studying.