«A Mind For Numbers» in a NutshellFebruary 16, 2016
This post has appeared primarily thanks to Sergey Teplyakov blog. Firstly his post about Barbara Oakley book took my attention. Secondly - the practice of writing brief reviews of noticeable materials seems like a good investment of time and a way to organize thoughts.
My meeting with Barbara Oakley was just a matter of time. Some of my friends have taken the famous Learning How to Learn course on Coursera which is considered the most viewed ever. I always beware of such kind of humanitarian materials - usually you wouldn’t be able to find there anything but numerous repeats of obvious with rare inclusions of interesting thoughts.
However, the feedback was too good to keep ignoring it. Luckily, I came across a review of Barbara Oakley book «A Mind For Numbers». This book claimed to have the same content as aforementioned course.
The short review:
I wish I had this book in my student years…
The longer version:
…but it also seems to be useful nowadays.
The name «Learning how to learn» looks more self-descriptive than the chosen title. All of the advices and lifehacks from the book can be applied not only to mathematics study, but literally for any other area of knowledge.
The main idea of the book - learning anything is a hard labour. Quick scan of a book and highlightning of some thoughts is not enough. If you want to truly learn something you have to understand it and make connections to other parts of your knowledge. Every tip from the book relates to these points one way or another:
- Instead of reading a material twice, try to recall its main points. It ensures that this knowledge would be transferred from short term to long term memory.
- Consume new ideas in batches. It builds a more solid foundation and helps in connecting different pieces of information together.
- Use both focused and diffused modes of thinking - one of them helps to solve a problem with logic and another one - with creativity.
- Become fond of interval repetitions, it helps to strengthen new batches of information.
- Remember abour a rubber duck method - sometimes it’s helpful to explain a problem in a very simple terms to someone else.
- Learn how to concentrate. Know your procrastination reasons. Use the Pomodoro technique.
- Keep in mind your goals and dreams - it helps to overcome even major difficulties.
Many of these tips are obvious - but the book establishes a strong theoretical basis for each of them. Though the book is primarly oriented on students, its ideas may be applied to a software engineer life - both to learning new things and everyday work tasks.
I’m still not sure if the course is worth watching - Barbara Oakley ideas fit a book perfectly, but may be to broad for video lectures. However, I strongly recommend the book especially if you doubt the quality of your learning habits.