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A Mind For Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even If You Flunked Algebra) Kindle Edition
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—Adam Grant, New York Times-bestselling author of The Originals
“A good teacher will leave you educated. But a great teacher will leave you curious. Well, Barbara Oakley is a great teacher. Not only does she have a mind for numbers, she has a way with words, and she makes every one of them count.”
—Mike Rowe, creator and host of Discovery Channel’s "Dirty Jobs" and CEO of mikeroweWORKS
"Superb not only for those who are struggling or who are expert at math, but for readers who wish to think and comprehend more efficiently."
“An ingeniously accessible introduction to the science of human cognition—along with practical advice on how to think better.”
—James Taranto, The Wall Street Journal
“In my book The Math Instinct, I described how we have known since the early 1990s that all ordinary people can do mathematics, and in The Math Gene, I explained why the capacity for mathematical thinking is both a natural consequence of evolution and yet requires effort to unleash it. What I did not do is show how to tap in to that innate ability. Professor Oakley does just that.”
—Keith Devlin, NPR Weekend Edition’s “Math Guy”
“A wonderful book! How do you come to love math and science, and how do you come to learn math and science? Read A Mind for Numbers. Barbara Oakley is the magician who will help you do both.”
—Francisco J. Ayala, University Professor and Donald Bren Professor of Biological Sciences, University of California, Irvine, and former President and Chairman of the Board, American Association for the Advancement of Science
“Being good at science and mathematics isn’t just something you are; it’s something you become. This users’ guide to the brain unmasks the mystery around achieving success in mathematics and science. I have seen far too many students opt out when they hit a rough patch. But now that learners have a handy guide for ‘knowing better’ they will also be able to ‘do better.’”
—Shirley Malcom, Head of Education and Human Resources Programs, American Association for the Advancement of Science
“A Mind for Numbers is an excellent book about how to approach mathematics, science, or any realm where problem solving plays a prominent role.”
—J. Michael Shaughnessy, Past President of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics
“I have not been this excited about a book in a long time. Giving students deep knowledge on how to learn will lead to higher retention and student success in every field. It is a gift that will last them a lifetime.”
—Robert R Gamache, Ph.D., Associate Vice President, Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, and International Relations, University of Massachusetts, Lowell
”A Mind for Numbers helps put students in the driver’s seat—empowering them to learn more deeply and easily. This outstanding book is also a useful resource for instructional leaders. Given the urgent need for America to improve its science and math education so it can stay competitive, A Mind for Numbers is a welcome find.”
—Geoffrey Canada, President, Harlem Children's Zone
"It's easy to say 'work smarter, not harder,' but Barbara Oakley actually shows you how to do just that, in a fast-paced and accessible book that collects tips based on experience and sound science. In fact, I'm going to incorporate some of these tips into my own teaching."
—Glenn Harlan Reynolds, Beauchamp Brogan Distinguished Professor of Law, The University of Tennessee
“A Mind for Numbers is a splendid resource for how to approach mathematics learning and in fact learning in any area. Barbara Oakley’s authoritative guide is based on the latest research in the cognitive sciences, and provides a clear, concise, and entertaining roadmap for how to get the most out of learning. This is a must-read for anyone who has struggled with mathematics and anyone interested in enhancing their learning experience.”
—David C. Geary, Curators’ Professor of Psychological Sciences and Interdisciplinary Neuroscience, University of Missouri
“For students afraid of math and science and for those who love the subjects, this engaging book provides guidance in establishing study habits that take advantage of how the brain works.”
—Deborah Schifter, Principal Research Scientist, Science and Mathematics Programs, Education Development Center, Inc.
“A Mind for Numbers explains the process of learning in a fascinating and utterly memorable way. This book is a classic, not only for learners of all ages, but for teachers of all kinds.”
—Frances R. Spielhagen, Ph.D., Director, Center for Adolescent Research and Development, Mount Saint Mary College --This text refers to the paperback edition.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Thomas Edison is one of the most prolific inventors in history, with over one thousand patents to his name. Nothing got in the way of his creativity. Even as his lab was burning to the ground in a horrific accidental fire, Edison was excitedly sketching up plans for a new lab, even bigger and better than before. How could Edison be so phenomenally creative? The answer, as you’ll see, relates to his unusual tricks for shifting his mode of thinking.
Shifting between the focused and diffuse modes
For most people, shifting from focused to diffuse mode happens naturally if you distract yourself and then allow a little time to pass. You can go for a walk, take a nap, or go to the gym. Or you can work on something that occupies other parts of your brain: listening to music, conjugating Spanish verbs, or cleaning your gerbil cage The key is to do something else until your brain is consciously free of any thought of the problem. Unless other tricks are brought into play, this generally takes several hours. You may say – I don’t have that kind of time. You do, however, if you simply switch your focus to other things you need to do, and mix in a little relaxing break time.
Creativity expert Howard Gruber has suggested that one of the three "B’s" usually seems to do the trick: the bed, the bath, or the bus One remarkably inventive chemist of the mid-1800s, Alexander Williamson, observed that a solitary walk was worth a week in the laboratory in helping him progress in his work.(Lucky for him there were no smartphones then.) Walking spurs creativity in many fields; a number of famous writers, for example, including Jane Austen, Carl Sandburg, and Charles Dickens, found inspiration during their frequent long walks.
Once you are distracted from the problem at hand, the diffuse mode has access and can begin pinging about in its big-picture way to settle on a solution. After your break, when you return to the problem at hand, you will often be surprised at how easily the solution pops into place. Even if the solution doesn’t appear, you will often be further along in your understanding. It can take a lot of hard, focused mode work beforehand, but the sudden, unexpected solution that emerges from the diffuse mode can make it feel almost like the "Ah-hah!" mode.
- File Size : 12849 KB
- Publication Date : July 31, 2014
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print Length : 332 pages
- Publisher : TarcherPerigee; 1st Edition (July 31, 2014)
- ASIN : B00G3L19ZU
- Language: : English
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Enhanced Typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #23,296 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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I'm going back to school again for a degree in engineering and successfully achieved a 4.0 this first quarter using these strategies. This would have been completely impossible for me in the past.
Oakley uses good teaching/learning approaches in this book. It is peppered with stories and even pictures that bring lessons to life. The stories are from very successful scientists – many of whom struggled to learn or were even written off by their teachers. They are stories that say – “persist, be smart about how you learn, and you will succeed.” This, of course, is the learning mindset that is so crucial for discovery and living an unstoppable life.
Oakley also distributes insights about her core topics – building up and reinforcing the key ideas throughout the book. Ultimately, she concludes that 10 practices are critical (she calls them “Ten Rules of Good Studying.” They apply to lifelong learning as well as to learning for school – especially to information and processes you want to remember:
Use recall. Don’t just review what you want to remember. Actively pull your insights out of your own brain. This, of course, is a key practice in my Unstoppable You. Oakley offers many reinforcements of this important way to support learning
Test Yourself. This is something anyone can do about any topic you want to remember. For kids it’s flash cards, for adults it might be asking yourself what you know about a topic before a meeting or reading, and then doing it again afterwards.
Chunk information. Organizing ideas and facts into categories, pictures and diagrams, songs, and other mental files can help you remember and understand at a deeper level. Connecting ideas to what you know and to each other creates more neural connections and thus more ways to find what you need when you need it.
Space repetition. Oakley practices this by revisiting and enhancing these 10 rules throughout this book. The lesson is to work on something for a shorter period of time (30 minutes?) and then do something less demanding. When you return to the learning project later, you will be fresher and your automatic system (she calls it your “diffused processing mode”) will have done some undercover work to process your initial learning.
Alternate different problem-solving techniques. She talks about how this works in math – work on equations for a while, then on verbal problems, then do a test, etc. The point is, don’t get stuck on one way of learning something. Get a variety of perspectives – some big picture, some detailed. This “interleaving” is a pretty valuable approach for any topic.
Take breaks. When you are stuck or tired from focusing on solving a problem/learning, stop and do something that isn’t so taxing. Your automatic (diffused) processing will continue to work on the problem unconsciously and you will be able to have a new perspective when you come back to it.
Use explanatory questioning and simple analogies. Try explaining what you are learning in a simple way – preferably to someone else. Tell them what it is “like” (an example she gives if that the flow of electricity is like the flow of water). This more deeply engrains the knowledge in your brain and may get you some clarifying questions.
Focus. This is a very important and often broken rule. It is clear that your brain can’t work on more than one complex problem at a time. So, as many others suggest, turn off the phones, text messaging, loud music, and create a space where you can concentrate.
Eat your frogs first. That is, do the hardest things first when you have the energy.
Make a mental contrast. This is equivalent to the imagination quality presented in Unstoppable You: see where you want to be and compare it the where you are. Let this be motivating.
There are many specific tips and encouraging comments in this book. And for students, there is a lot of good help related to working with teachers, studying with others, dealing with procrastination, taking tests, dealing with anxiety, letting go of the need to be perfect in order to be open to insights and to correct errors in thinking, remembering facts and methods, and more.
Oakley is a very respected educator who came to the sciences by accident when she was in military service. We should be glad that she discovered math and science and became curious about how to be a master learner and teacher in these areas. We all benefit from her perspective, examples, and tips.
The author's approach was to relate her own struggles with mathematics, and the methods she used to improve her mathematical abilities, These are folk remedies. She presents scientific research to support her lessons. Also, she uses anecdotes from other students and teachers to amplify these lessons.
It was so good that I brought two (2) copies: one for myself and one for my niece as starts high school. I hope that it encourages her to study mathematics and science.
I am a student majoring in the sciences who suffered as a child with basic math and reading. I failed miserably in school and did not do well until after I had my daughter at the age of 19 and entered into full time college where I put my mind to things, determined to accomplished them; graduating with a 4.0 GPA. This book is something I wish I had before I started my endeavor in schooling because it would have benefited me mentally and even helped retain information. I recommend this book for every person; student or not; just read it to sharpen your mind. For students, I recommend studying this book as though it were a textbook and taking notes. I had a notebook specifically for this book when I realized it was a book worth taking notes from.
As a mother, homeschooling a dyslexic daughter, I appreciate her truthfulness which gives hope for my 8 year old daughter who struggles to read a clock, but excels in engineering and design as well as having a complex vocabulary (though a struggling reader) and horsemanship. I am now in the place to teach the passion for learning, and teaching how to learn to another person. This book will surely help me through the experience.
Top reviews from other countries
Despite its 263 pages the basic revelation of this book is to study hard for short periods and then take a break and this is supposed to be the result of years of research in cognitive science that the author has allegedly undertaken for us. Where the book does get slightly interesting is in its presentation of memory improvement techniques but these are far better and more thoroughly presented in countless other publications and have their origins in at least ancient Greece.
My only conclusion with this disappointing read it that what little bit of originality it has is simply dull and where it isn't dull it is unoriginal. I suppose this book may be of some use to first year students just starting a university course in a scientific, or indeed any other, subject but only if they have no knowledge or experience whatsoever in basic study skills.
One of the things that i really like is that there is flexibility in the application, as opposed to a "do it this way" approach. It gives you a toolbox of methods and you can pick the methods that work best for you and how you learn, by inspiring the reader to creatively find the method that works for them.
Overall, many strategies here may be old adages you've heard before. The evidence and reasoning, however, are so outstanding that you'll actually find yourself incorporating these modifications into your life.
There were times in this book where I teared up. There times that had me smiling and chuckling. But most of all, this book gave me the tools to study effectively and the reassurance I needed to simply try. I want to see how far I can go.