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How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens Paperback – June 9, 2015
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“This book is a revelation. I feel as if I’ve owned a brain for fifty-four years and only now discovered the operating manual. For two centuries, psychologists and neurologists have been quietly piecing together the mysteries of mind and memory as they relate to learning and knowing. Benedict Carey serves up their most fascinating, surprising, and valuable discoveries with clarity, wit, and heart. I wish I’d read this when I was seventeen.”—Mary Roach, bestselling author of Stiff and Gulp
“How We Learn makes for a welcome rejoinder to the faddish notion that learning is all about the hours put in. Learners, [Benedict] Carey reminds us, are not automatons.”—The New York Times Book Review
“The insights of How We Learn apply to far more than just academic situations. Anyone looking to learn a musical instrument would benefit from understanding what frequency and type of practice is most effective. Even readers with little practical use for Carey’s information will likely find much of it fascinating, such as how intuition can be a teachable skill, or that giving practice exams at the very beginning of a semester improves grades. How We Learn is a valuable, entertaining tool for educators, students and parents.”—Shelf Awareness
“How We Learn is more than a new approach to learning; it is a guide to making the most out of life. Who wouldn’t be interested in that?”—Scientific American
“Whether you struggle to remember a client’s name, aspire to learn a new language, or are a student battling to prepare for the next test, this book is a must. I know of no other source that pulls together so much of what we know about the science of memory and couples it with practical, practicable advice.”—Daniel T. Willingham, professor of psychology at the University of Virginia and author of Raising Readers in an Age of Distraction
“How We Learn is as fun to read as it is important, and as much about how to live as it is about how to learn. Benedict Carey’s skills as a writer, plus his willingness to mine his own history as a student, give the book a wonderful narrative quality that makes it all the more accessible—and all the more effective as a tutorial.”—Robert A. Bjork, Distinguished Research Professor, Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles
“Fact #1: Your brain is a powerful and eccentric machine, capable of performing astonishing feats of memory and skill. Fact #2: Benedict Carey has written a book that will inspire and equip you to use your brain in a more effective way. Fact #3: You should use your brain—right now—to buy this book for yourself and for anyone who wants to learn faster and better.”—Daniel Coyle, bestselling author of The Talent Code
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Benedict Carey is an award-winning science reporter who has been at The New York Times since 2004, and one of the newspaper’s most emailed reporters. He graduated from the University of Colorado with a bachelor’s degree in math and from Northwestern University with a master’s in journalism, and has written about health and science for twenty-five years. He lives in New York City.
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Repetition, according to Benedict, is a vital part in helping us to enhance the memory. We must train our brains, in a way, so that certain things we may forget become more and more routine to us. For example, I sometimes forget to lock all the doors in my house before going to sleep. If I am aware of this and practice locking the doors each and every night, soon enough it will become routine to me and I'll no longer forget to do it.
I read this book, in conjunction with Greg Frosts book, "Maximizing Brain Control : Unleash The Genius In You", and I'm starting to feel more confident and knowledgeable in learning about the human brain and how to store and retrieve information. Both are excellent resources and combined, can truly work wonders for you if you take them serious and truly want to enhance your brain capacity.
Good Habits is a key technique both books teach. If you can associate certain things with something you are more familiar with, you are more likely to start remembering as time goes on. Problem Solving is a third technique in which Benedict explains. If you can train your brain to solve the problem that need to be completed, we also learn the upside of distraction.
He also provides dietary advice that can help to improve our memory. Most of us would not think or believe that sleep actually plays a vital role in our brain function and memorization, but it does. Something as simple as making small changes in our lifestyle can actually enhance our memories.
I would have to say that someone who wants to be a great student ASAP is probably better off reading A Mind For Numbers first. That book takes you by the hand and leads you through the ideas about what you need to DO a lot more specifically. It makes very frequent references to research, but it's plainly written with the intention of being a guide for people who are taking and really need to hone in on exactly what to do NOW, because there are tests coming up. It leads you through the material by the hand, pretty much, asking you questions and reminding you to stop and think about what you've read. It also has a (free) online MOOC through Coursera to go with it that covers/reinforces the same material.
Fluent Forever, in its effort to teach people how to learn languages, makes use of some of the same research, but shapes it to its topic. It offers a sort of general idea of how you should proceed, but the emphasis is on giving you a basic plan and just enough understanding of the research so that you can make good decisions about how to move forward with it.
I feel like How We Learn is a little farther down the spectrum in that same direction. Most of its emphasis is on teaching you the research (some of which is the same research cited by the other two), with an assumption that you'll be able to make reasonable decisions about how to put it into practice. So he goes over exactly why it is NOT a good idea to learn a new math trick by doing 50 problems in a row that use that trick. He touches on how it can be put into practice, but it isn't something he dwells on. This vs A Mind for Numbers is sort of like... one being a professor who teaches key points but assumes that the students are capable of drawing some reasonable conclusions on their own, and the other being a professor who strives to touch on every single possible issue that might be of importance. It's a very different style.
For someone who's actually writing a paper on learning or something of that nature, I suspect this will be more valuable. For someone who is actively taking classes or trying to learn a language, I'd say read either A Mind for Numbers or Fluent Forever first, because they'll get you going on making progress faster. Then, it certainly wouldn't hurt to come back to review some of the concepts and generally deepen your understanding overall by reading How We Learn. (If you're not taking classes and you just love teaching yourself new things, you might want to skip A Mind for Numbers. It puts a lot of emphasis on things like dealing with procrastination, which is very valuable, but not really a core issue if you're learning for pleasure and there aren't really any deadlines to speak of.)