A Mind for Numbers

A Mind for Numbers (2014) by Barbara Oakley is a book on how to study and more particularly how to study math. It’s adapted from a course on how to learn to learn.

Oakley did poorly at math in high school, stopped doing it and joined the army where she became a Russian translator. There she learned how to learn. After being in the Signal Core she decided she wanted to learn how the systems she was using worked so she got an Electrical Engineering degree and used her improved learning skills to learn math, which had eluded her previously and she went on to get a PhD.

The looks at how to get an overview, create chunks of knowledge and revise them so that they become embedded in your mind in a framework that enables you to keep the knowledge and understand math. Working through math in periods of focussed time and then relaxing and using diffuse thinking to get to more creative solutions is carefully described.

It’s a well written, carefully constructed book that would have been a great help to me when studying. The book is full of anecdotes of people who have overcome study difficulties and learnt material deeply. It’s very much worth reading.


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