# A Mind for Numbers

## How to Excel at Math and Science (even If You Flunked Algebra)

eBook - 2014
Whether you are a student struggling to fulfill a math or science requirement, or you are embarking on a career change that requires a higher level of math competency, A Mind for Numbers offers the tools you need to get a better grasp of that intimidating but inescapable field. Engineering professor Barbara Oakley knows firsthand how it feels to struggle with math. She flunked her way through high school math and science courses, before enlisting in the army immediately after graduation. When she saw how her lack of mathematical and technical savvy severely limited her options'both to rise in the military and to explore other careers'she returned to school with a newfound determination to re-tool her brain to master the very subjects that had given her so much trouble throughout her entire life. In A Mind for Numbers, Dr. Oakley lets us in on the secrets to effectively learning math and science'secrets that even dedicated and successful students wish they'd known earlier. Contrary to popular belief, math requires creative, as well as analytical, thinking. Most people think that there's only one way to do a problem, when in actuality, there are often a number of different solutions'you just need the creativity to see them. For example, there are more than three hundred different known proofs of the Pythagorean Theorem. In short, studying a problem in a laser-focused way until you reach a solution is not an effective way to learn math. Rather, it involves taking the time to step away from a problem and allow the more relaxed and creative part of the brain to take over. A Mind for Numbers shows us that we all have what it takes to excel in math, and learning it is not as painful as some might think!

Publisher:
New York : Jeremy P. Tarcher, 2014.

ISBN:
9781101621615

1101621613

1101621613

Characteristics:
1 online resource.

Contents:
Open the door

Easy does it : why trying too hard can sometimes be part of the problem

Learning is creating : lessons from thomas edison?s frying pan

Chunking and avoiding illusions of competence : the keys to becoming an "equation whisperer"

Preventing procrastination: enlisting your habits ("zombies") as helpers

Zombies everywhere : digging deeper to understand the habit of procrastination

Chunking versus choking : how to increase your expertise and reduce anxiety

Tools, tips, and tricks

Procrastination zombie wrap-up

Enhancing your memory

More memory tips

Learning to appreciate your talent

Sculpting your brain

Developing the mind's eye through equation poems

Renaissance learning

Avoiding overconfidence : the power of teamwork

Test taking

Unlock your potential.

Easy does it : why trying too hard can sometimes be part of the problem

Learning is creating : lessons from thomas edison?s frying pan

Chunking and avoiding illusions of competence : the keys to becoming an "equation whisperer"

Preventing procrastination: enlisting your habits ("zombies") as helpers

Zombies everywhere : digging deeper to understand the habit of procrastination

Chunking versus choking : how to increase your expertise and reduce anxiety

Tools, tips, and tricks

Procrastination zombie wrap-up

Enhancing your memory

More memory tips

Learning to appreciate your talent

Sculpting your brain

Developing the mind's eye through equation poems

Renaissance learning

Avoiding overconfidence : the power of teamwork

Test taking

Unlock your potential.

Summary:
Whether you are a student struggling to fulfill a math or science requirement, or you are embarking on a career change that requires a higher level of math competency, A Mind for Numbers offers the tools you need to get a better grasp of that intimidating but inescapable field. Engineering professor Barbara Oakley knows firsthand how it feels to struggle with math. She flunked her way through high school math and science courses, before enlisting in the army immediately after graduation. When she saw how her lack of mathematical and technical savvy severely limited her options'both to rise in the military and to explore other careers'she returned to school with a newfound determination to re-tool her brain to master the very subjects that had given her so much trouble throughout her entire life. In A Mind for Numbers, Dr. Oakley lets us in on the secrets to effectively learning math and science'secrets that even dedicated and successful students wish they'd known earlier. Contrary to popular belief, math requires creative, as well as analytical, thinking. Most people think that there's only one way to do a problem, when in actuality, there are often a number of different solutions'you just need the creativity to see them. For example, there are more than three hundred different known proofs of the Pythagorean Theorem. In short, studying a problem in a laser-focused way until you reach a solution is not an effective way to learn math. Rather, it involves taking the time to step away from a problem and allow the more relaxed and creative part of the brain to take over. A Mind for Numbers shows us that we all have what it takes to excel in math, and learning it is not as painful as some might think!

## Comment

Add a CommentI avoided this book for a long time, put off by the subtitle - which came across as "gimicky" - but finally gave it a chance. To my surprise and delight, the author's suggestions largely paralleled the content of a "math learning strategies" course that I have taught for years! I will be incorporating new ideas next semester, for sure. The "pomodoro" method (also mentioned by a previous reviewer) will be one; it is pure genius.

FYI: LS 174 (COLL 174 starting Fall 2018) is JCCC's math strategies course. Check out the course listings for additional strategies courses.

Dr. Barbara Oakley really got through to me on the effectiveness of these learning techniques she discusses, seeing as she had some learning struggles of her own to overcome.

For those of you who don't get the "passing math and science when you've flunked algebra" aspect allow me to tell you a bit about Dr. Oakley. She had major problems with math (she was the self-described "queen of anti-math" when in public school), which initially affected her interest in science. She was a translator the military, and in order to get a promotion, she realized that she needed to master her math and science to become an engineer.

If you are interested, She also co-instructs an online course through Coursera with Dr. Terrence Sejnowski, called Learning How to Learn.

I do not know why this book is so well recommended by many academics. This book is about how to study, nothing to do with math and science. The concepts on how to study mentioned in this book are well known, such as relax, sleep. taking a break, etc. This book also borrows ideas from neuroscience. If your grades are good, you do not need to read this book. If your grades are bad, it is okay to read this book. But, all what you will read will likely be known to you already and you just merely don't apply them.

There are two important things to remember about this book.

1. This book is a giant pep talk.

2. The advice shared here is about how we learn.

The possibility of getting either in our high schools is slim.

Great book for learning effective study techniques and how to overcome procrastination. I use the Pomodoro method each time i study, and I find it extremely useful. This book is mainly written with students in mind, but I think it is suitable for anyone wanting to learn more about how the brain works in storing and processing new information.

An encouraging reminder of how much say we have in our own learning. Gives simple but powerful tips that you can (and should!) put into practice right away.

A really fantastic and amazing book. Prof. Oakley explains all, and I am not kidding about this! A colossal read on the subject on how to learn. While the author mentions math and science, it really covers the complete spectrum of learning how to learn. 20 starred book.

I wish this book would’ve come out when I was still young; I could’ve really used a book like this back then, through high school and undergraduate college. How sad that we’re never taught exactly how to learn in school, and are expected to just pick it up or study harder.

I learned about this book’s existence by taking the author’s free online course on Learning How to Learn at Coursera.org; she used much of this book’s principles for her course, and it got me interested in reading it for myself.

It’s a great self-help book on explaining how to study; Barbara Oakley not only explains the things that will help you study better, but also explains it in such a way that you get it. She would know; she used to hate math and science, and eschewed it until after her stint in the armed forces when her current career was going nowhere.

Don’t let the book title fool you; you can use what you learn here for any type of subject, including athletic activities like sports, and whether you’re still in school, a self-learner, or simply want to remember errands and grocery lists better without forgetting (in fact, that’s what the author implied when she advertised her book during the Coursera online course). It covers not only some of the best ways to study, but also how to memorize lists or concepts better, and how to avoid anxiety; one of the greatest strengths of this book is that there’s something for everybody (unlike books which are specifically tailored for memorizing, or procrastinating, or managing your time wisely).

There’s also short quotes in each chapter from various students and professors and what they used to try to learn better, so you can also glean from their respective experiences and apply them for your own benefit.

One thing I like about this book in particular, is that Barbara also covers a few chapters in the book on how procrastination works scientifically, as well as how to beat it; you can’t form a good book on how to learn better without covering a topic like that, since we all have subjects and things we hate to do, but must do.

If you like this book, you might also want to consider reading “Make It Stick” by Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III and Mark A. McDaniel; it’s also a recent book on learning based on scientific findings. However, I would personally read this book first, because it covers a broad range of topics, the concepts here are easily laid out, and easy to understand and apply. Highly recommended book.