A Mind for Numbers PDF by Barbara Oakley

A Mind for Numbers by Barbara Oakley PhD

Download A Mind for Numbers by Barbara Oakley PhD PDF book free online – Whether you are a student struggling to fulfill a math or science requirement, or you are embarking on a career change that requires a new skill set, A Mind for Numbers offers the tools you need to get a better grasp of that intimidating material.

Summary of A Mind for Numbers PDF by Barbara Oakley

Despite the title’s clear mention of “numbers,” “math,” and “science,” as well as the biographical blurb’s reference of “teaching methods,” this book has nothing to do with any of those subjects. If you expect to learn a mnemonic device for factoring polynomials from Oakley’s book, you will be disappointed. The book, on the other hand, focuses on the mind, or rather the brain, and gives a wealth of material and practical applications to help readers create mental habits and behaviors that lead to successful learning in any subject or skill, not only STEM subjects.

As stated in the “To the Reader” section, Oakley aims for the book to appeal to a wide spectrum of general readers, and she does a good job of meeting those needs for the most part. She writes in simple language that anyone can understand, and when she does use complex phrases, she defines them and often offers an end note in case readers want further original source material. She kept the chapters to 20 pages or less, with Chapter 4 being the longest at 31 pages. Each chapter follows a similar format, with brief sections with topic headers and images and a list of “Summing it Up” bullet points and “To Enhance Your Learning” questions and/or exercises. Each chapter concludes with an extended tale on the learning experiences of a specific expert in a STEM-related subject, with quotes from students and professionals attesting to the success of the tactics Oakley explains. 2 Each chapter is summarized briefly below.

“Open the Door,” says the first chapter.

Oakley describes her scholastic and career path from math phobic to engineering professor. Oakley demonstrates that “the brain is made to do remarkable mental calculations” by recounting her personal journey from Slavic language expert to reimagined STEM career path (6-7). She teases what’s to come in later chapters, including some neurological findings that readers might use to broaden their talents and creativity in STEM subjects and beyond.

“Easy Does It: Why Trying Too Hard Can Sometimes Be Part of the Problem,” says Chapter 2.

Several instances are used to demonstrate and highlight the dangers of “trying too hard.” Oakley distinguishes between two styles of thinking: focused and diffuse, and explains why each is necessary for certain sorts of learning and problem solving. She claims that we must not only learn how to use each mode, but also how and when to switch between them.

“Learning is Creating: Lessons from Thomas Edison’s Frying Pan,” Chapter 3

To substantiate her claims concerning the successful utilization of focused and diffuse modes of thought, Oakley describes the mental habits of two creative giants: Thomas Edison and Salvador Dali. Working memory and long-term memory are also important for creativity and problem solving, because these two types of memory create multiple and creative connections that can lead to novel conclusions.

Chapter 4: “The Keys to Becoming a ‘Equation Whisperer’: Chunking and Avoiding Illusions of Competence.”

Oakley shows how to fragment knowledge and debunks prevalent myths regarding time-on-task versus active reading and learning. She claims that forming connections inside and between pieces of knowledge is more successful than passive rereading, overlearning, and rote memorizing, all of which can deceive students into thinking they know more than they do.

“Preventing Procrastination: Enlisting Your Habits (“Zombies”) as Assistants,” Chapter 5.

Procrastination is a “keystone poor habit,” according to Oakley (86), and thus a particularly dangerous zombie. Procrastination, especially in STEM topics, but not solely, sabotages the brain underpinnings required for success. Oakley presents a step-by-step guide to recognizing and avoiding addictive behaviors that sabotage learning.

“Zombies Everywhere: Digging Deeper to Understand the Habit of Procrastination” is the sixth chapter.

Oakley’s focus here is on developing positive mental habits. The four key components of habits are discussed: rewarding small bursts of work, cultivating diffuse-thinking mode, engaging in mental contrasting, and avoiding multitasking, which disrupts the learning process. Successful learners, according to Oakley, prioritize process over product.

“Chunking Versus Choking: How to Increase Your Expertise and Reduce Anxiety” is the seventh chapter.

Oakley gives readers the chance to put the study habits and learning skills they learned earlier into practice. She emphasizes mental storage of knowledge above rote memory, and she offers seven techniques for constructing powerful process-based learning chunks. She also highlights that active learning and cognitively growing one’s collection of problem-solving patterns help students build expertise.

“Tools, Tips, and Tricks” is the eighth chapter.

While it’s natural for students to be apprehensive about starting their work, Oakley notes that by regulating those sentiments and conducting a type of behavioral self-analysis, they can create tailored productivity tools as well as a positive outlook on their work. She offers solutions for better problem solving by organizing behavior and freeing up working memory. She also stresses the importance of incorporating healthy leisure time into the workweek. The list of finest apps and online help programs for staying on track may be especially useful for students and teachers.

“Procrastination Zombie Wrap-Up,” Chapter 9.

This is the final chapter in the procrastination series. Under stressful, binge-learning conditions, the neuronal foundation required for math and scientific performance deteriorates, according to Oakley. Pausing and reflecting, on the other hand, are more effective learning practices.

“Improving Your Memory” is the topic of Chapter 10.

Oakley discusses ways for increasing visuospatial memory, such as using visual pictures, jingles, or the “memory palace,” to create parallels.

“More Memory Tips” is the eleventh chapter.

Oakley builds on the preceding chapter by emphasizing the need of learners employing visual metaphors, spaced repetition, meaningful groups, and narratives to learn. She also points out that the haptic element of writing by hand has some advantages versus writing by computer for some types of learning. She adds a couple additional “memory techniques” at the end of the chapter.

“Learning to Appreciate Your Talent” is the title of Chapter 12.

Oakley focuses her attention to the importance of intuition in learning and cautions readers not to dismiss it. She emphasizes that how we think is more important than what we know.

“Sculpting Your Brain” is the title of Chapter 13.

This chapter is a mini-case study on Ramón y Cajal, the “father of modern neuroscience” who won the Nobel Prize (194). Oakley’s goal is to show how the tactics she explains in prior chapters—particularly chunking and creating analogies—are mirrored in Cajal’s intellectual development and account for it.

“Developing the Mind’s Eye Through Equation Poems,” Chapter 14.

Finally, we get to a chapter about mathematics, namely how to read mathematical symbols and decipher the stories that equations tell. “There are hidden meanings in equations, just as there are in poetry,” Oakley says (203). Oakley describes two tactics for uncovering and comprehending those underlying meanings: simplifying and personifying the topic of study, and recognizing when and how to apply what has been learnt in one context to another.

“Renaissance Learning” is the title of Chapter 15.

This chapter emphasizes the need of individual learning, but it also recognizes the importance of excellent teachers. Oakley warns readers about “intellectual snipers,” or people who “criticize or try to undermine whatever effort or achievement you make” (218).

Chapter 16: The Power of Teamwork in Avoiding Overconfidence.”

This chapter, in contrast to the preceding one, which emphasized autonomous learning, highlights the benefits of collaborative learning. Collaborative learning, according to Oakley, can assist learners avoid overconfidence. Study teams can provide helpful checks and balances to members’ individual learning as long as group members feel free to disagree with the group’s status quo, as Oakley argues.

“Test Taking” is the title of Chapter 17.

Instead of emphasizing on testing as a means of assessment, Oakley emphasizes its role as “an incredibly potent learning event” (238). The “Test Preparation Checklist” will be most valuable to students and teachers (240-41). Oakley also discusses test-taking tactics such as the “hard-start—jump-to-easy” method and how to manage test-taking anxiety.

“Unlock Your Potential” is the title of Chapter 18.

The final chapter recaps the previous chapters and concludes with two lists: “10 Rules of Effective Studying” and “10 Rules of Ineffective Studying.” Both may readily be changed to suit learning in any field or discipline.

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 learning effectively—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. 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. The learning strategies in this book apply not only to math and science but to any subject in which we struggle. We all have what it takes to excel in areas that don’t seem to come naturally to us at first, and learning them does not have to be as painful as we might think.

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Review of A Mind for Numbers

“If you struggled through math and slept through science, there’s hope. In A Mind for Numbers, polymath Barbara Oakley reveals how to unlock the analytic powers of our brains so we can learn how to learn. This book should be required reading for students—and for my mother.”
—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.”
Library Journal

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“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.

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“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

About the Author

Barbara Oakley is a professor of engineering at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. Her research has been termed “revolutionary” by the Wall Street Journal. She has received many national awards for her teaching, including the American Society of Engineering Education Chester F. Carlson Award for outstanding technical innovation in STEM pedagogy and the Theo L. Pilkington Award for exemplary work in bioengineering education. Her Coursera-UC San Diego course Learning How to Learn, created with her co-instructor Terrence Sejnowski, the Francis Crick Professor at the Salk Institute, is the most popular massive open online course in the world, with nearly 2 million students to date.

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