How To Learn

I just noticed this really fantastic short video on learning at the The Atlantic.


Summary:

  • Anyone really can learn anything.
  • You must be comfortable with not knowing, with not having answers, with being wrong.
  • Knowing what the rules are and knowing how success is defined means there is no discovery.
  • Be curious: ask questions, build the discipline of curiosity.
  • Sleep encodes memories; practice before sleeping and sleep well.
  • When you believe in yourself, your brain behaves differently; if you believe in yourself, when you make a mistake, your brain “spark and fires” because you know you are learning.
  • Education today force feeds problems; we don’t teach how to ask questions.
  • Any type of creative process usually begins with a good question, one that reframes a problem or challenges a process.
  • Stories help us to understand the world and the people around us while at the same time enhancing our attention spans and developing our imaginations.

 

The Precise Relationship between Intelligence and Speed: There is none

Being a Southerner in New York City, I always suspected this. There is no relationship between intelligence and speed. What is important is to deeply understand things and to think about their relations to each other. In math education emphases on speed simply create math anxiety and phobia, rather than great mathematical thinkers. From Fields Medalist Laurent Schwartz:

“I was always deeply uncertain about my own intellectual capacity. I thought I was unintelligent. And it’s true that I was, and I still am, rather slow. I need time to seize things because I always need to understand them fully. Even when I was the first to answer the teacher’s questions, I knew it was because they happened to be questions to which I already knew the answer. But if a new question arose, usually students who weren’t as good as I was answered before me and towards the end of the 11th grade I secretly thought of myself as stupid and I worried about this for a long time. I never talked about this to anyone but I always felt convinced that my imposture would someday be revealed. The whole world and myself would see that what looked like intelligence was really just an illusion Now that never happened. Apparently no one ever noticed it, and I’m still just as slow. At the end of the eleventh grade I took the measure of the situation and came to the conclusion that rapidity doesn’t have a precise relationship to intelligence. What is important is to deeply understand things and their relations to each other. This is where intelligence lies. The fact of being quick or slow isn’t really relevant. Naturally, it’s helpful to be quick, like it is to have a good memory. But it’s neither necessary nor sufficient for intellectual success.”

Laurent Schwartz, Fields Medal earner, as quoted by Dr. Jo Boaler in EDUC115N How to Learn Math (MOOC)

The Key to Success: Grit

In this excellent Ted Talk, Angela Lee Duckworth bluntly relays where we are in the science of education with regard to the single most important factor that determines success and achievement. At this point, all we know for sure is that a growth mindset can play an important role in helping children develop the stick-to-it-iveness they need to reach high levels of achievement. Comments welcome.

[ted id=1733]

Open thread on the definition of success at ted.com

Suggestions for Making Math Real for your Elementary and Middle Schoolers

Praise the Effort
Praise the Effort

Here are some suggestions for things you can do to help your child with math outside of school.

Every night during dinner or after, have a math minute: ask your child what they learned in math class that day. Was it fun? Give your child a mental math problem based on what they learned that day.

Make sure the mental math problems aren’t too hard. If necessary, make the problems easier – but never be negative or display disappointment. Just be excited when they get one right. Always praise the effort, regardless of the results.

Additional suggestions:

    • Make a point to praise your child’s effort in math, regardless of the results
    • Ask if class was fun today, was the test fun?
    • If you cook, have your child help you with the measurements, especially if you have to adjust the recipe.
    • If you don’t know the meaning of a word on the homework, don’t be afraid to look it up, but don’t use yahoo answers, wikipedia is fine, or a math website.
    • Have your child re-teach you what she learned in class today
    • Take your child shopping and compare prices in differently sized bottles. On your smart phone show her how to check the price per ounce (before you show her that it is often written on the shelf) to decide which one to buy.
    • Shopping: if something is on sale, have her figure out the discount and the price.

 

Carol Dweck and the Growth Mindset

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TTXrV0_3UjY&w=400&h=300]

In the past five years no book or thinker has had a greater impact on my life than Mindset, The New Psychology of Success by psychologist Carol Dweck. The approach to learning and growth she describes in her book and videos has affected me not only in my pursuits of hobbies and interests, but professionally, as an educator, as well. I have found new passion and joy in my own musical and artistic endeavors, and also have, I hope, become a better teacher in cultivating in my students a lifelong love of continual learning and determined practice on the road to discovery and success.

How to Increase Your Fluid Intelligence

Make Yourself Smarter
Sudoku doesn’t seem to be helping?

According to an article in the New York Times, the answer is to play n-back games every day. That sounds fun. I’m going to do it.

Can You Make Yourself Smarter?
By DAN HURLEY
Published: April 18, 2012

Play a Free Online Version of the N-Back Game

Brain Benefits of Bilingualism

Why Bilinguals Are Smarter
Why Bilinguals Are Smarter

The benefits of bilingualism continue to be supported by recent studies indicating that speaking two languages not only can delay or prevent the onset and severity of Alzheimer’s and dementia, but also can improve brain efficiency at certain types of problem solving and the ability to perform some mentally demanding tasks. While I would never say that bilingualism makes you “smarter,” perhaps the more rigorous mental exercise demanded by constantly switching between different languages and the multiplication of neural connections that must be established among thousands of words and word groups keep the brain primed to operate at a higher level of efficiency.

Why Bilinguals Are Smarter
by Yudhijit Battacharjee
New York Times, March 17th, 2012

Singapore Math Emphasizes Mastery of Basics

Kerri Gega teaching Singapore math in Scarsdale, N.Y. The district initially spent $145,632 for books and teachers' materials. New York Times.

The New York Times has an interesting article briefly describing the evolution of math education in the United States since the sixties and the latest development – an emulation of the Singapore process which moves more slowly at basic levels in an effort to achieve a stronger fundamental understanding of numbers and basic operations, allowing faster gains at higher levels.

Making Math Lessons Easy as 1, Pause, 2, Pause,…