A Mind For Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even If You Flunked Algebra) [NOOK Book]

Overview

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...
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A Mind For Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even If You Flunked Algebra)

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Overview

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!
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Unlike many other authors of math and science books, Barbara Oakley (Evil Genes; Practicing Sustainability) can boast no claims of being a childhood prodigy; in fact, she almost consistently failed courses in both subjects throughout high school. Then, realizing that she was booby-trapping her own future, she taught herself to turn things around. In this accessible, reassuring book, she describes her own self-teaching methods and explains how new insights based on cognitive psychology and neuroscience can help even math-phobes to excel. A trade paperback and NOOK Book original. (P.S. Books like this are needed: Two-thirds of American high school students lack proficiency in math.)

Library Journal
08/01/2014
According to engineering professor Oakley (Oakland Univ., Rochester, MI), math requires both creative (diffuse) as well as analytical (focused) thinking. She discusses how to toggle between the two for best results, and goes on to describe how to learn from both the top down and bottom up. In this relatively short book, Oakley provides a broad look at learning in general, and demonstrates through multiple exercises, photographs, and diagrams how to resculpt one's brain to learn more effectively. VERDICT 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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781101621615
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 7/31/2014
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 27,999
  • File size: 9 MB

Meet the Author




Barbara Oakley is a professor of engineering at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. She has received many awards for her teaching, including the coveted National Science Foundation New Century Scholar Award.

 
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Read an Excerpt

Thomas Edison is one of the most prolific inventors in history, with over one thousand patents to his name. Nothing got in the way of his creativity. Even as his lab was burning to the ground in a horrific accidental fire, Edison was excitedly sketching up plans for a new lab, even bigger and better than before. How could Edison be so phenomenally creative? The answer, as you’ll see, relates to his unusual tricks for shifting his mode of thinking.

Shifting between the focused and diffuse modes

For most people, shifting from focused to diffuse mode happens naturally if you distract yourself and then allow a little time to pass. You can go for a walk, take a nap, or go to the gym. Or you can work on something that occupies other parts of your brain: listening to music, conjugating Spanish verbs, or cleaning your gerbil cage The key is to do something else until your brain is consciously free of any thought of the problem. Unless other tricks are brought into play, this generally takes several hours. You may say – I don’t have that kind of time. You do, however, if you simply switch your focus to other things you need to do, and mix in a little relaxing break time.

Creativity expert Howard Gruber has suggested that one of the three "B’s" usually seems to do the trick: the bed, the bath, or the bus One remarkably inventive chemist of the mid-1800s, Alexander Williamson, observed that a solitary walk was worth a week in the laboratory in helping him progress in his work.(Lucky for him there were no smartphones then.) Walking spurs creativity in many fields; a number of famous writers, for example, including Jane Austen, Carl Sandburg, and Charles Dickens, found inspiration during their frequent long walks.

Once you are distracted from the problem at hand, the diffuse mode has access and can begin pinging about in its big-picture way to settle on a solution. After your break, when you return to the problem at hand, you will often be surprised at how easily the solution pops into place. Even if the solution doesn’t appear, you will often be further along in your understanding. It can take a lot of hard, focused mode work beforehand, but the sudden, unexpected solution that emerges from the diffuse mode can make it feel almost like the "Ah-hah!" mode.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 3, 2014

    This book IS a book on how to excel at math and science -- even

    This book IS a book on how to excel at math and science -- even if you previously flunked them. However, it is also much more. It's a book that is transformative for anyone who does creative work that requires writing and thinking and taking in information and creating something new out of it. 

    The science on how to do optimal work in “A Mind For Numbers” has transformed my writing life from hellish to a tough job I love. Through what I learned from about diffuse mode thinking, I’m careful to put in daily work in reading, researching, and writing, especially on tough concepts. 

    Our minds, as Dr. Oakley explains in the book, seem to do a lot of work in the “background” while we’re sleeping and doing things other than working. Each day, I find that I’m enjoying my work so much more because it isn’t a struggle; I, piece by piece, simply pull together tough concepts into a coherent and far better whole. 

    Dr. Oakley’s book ultimately helped me enjoy what I do in a way I never could before, when I procrastinated and was stressed out and then tried to shoehorn a bunch of information I hadn't processed into something coherent. This book was a life-changer for me. 

    --Amy Alkon, syndicated columnist and author, "Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck" (St. Martin's Press)

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2014

    I haven¿t read the book as yet, since I just bought it, but I t

    I haven’t read the book as yet, since I just bought it, but I took a class with Dr. Oakley recently
    and I’m sure this book will inspire me to do better in Math as I did when I took her class.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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