A Mind for Numbers : How to Excel at Math and Science (Even If You Flunked Algebra), Paperback

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

5 out of 5 (2 ratings)


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 336 pages, black & white illustrations, black & white line drawings
  • Publisher: Tarcher/Putnam,US
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Mathematics
  • ISBN: 9780399165245



Free Home Delivery

on all orders

Pick up orders

from local bookshops


Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.

Review by

The book begins by explaining the concepts of focused and diffuse modes of thinking. These are core and essential to understanding the rest of the book. As the names go - focused is concentrated and direct thinking that is applied to a specific problem while diffuse mode is a high-level and abstract perspective of looking at the problem. The point the author is making is that most of the times we are unable to solve something is because of too much of focused thinking and too less of diffuse mode approach.I've read other comments saying 'A Math book without any Math' - but that I think is the real essence of the book. The learning techniques mentioned in the book are useful for pretty much any learning, not limited to only Math and Science. There is a general dread for Math among many people. The author probably put 'Math' on the cover just to appeal to such people to begin with.I was amazed how much a simple act of blinking can do. I used the blinking technique while playing Sudoku and I'm able to see the big picture on the Sudoku board because of diffuse mode approach (of course, I still have lots to improve in Sudoku ha ha).The concepts of Chunking was an interesting read and the book shows how creating these 'chunks' in your mind helps retrieval of those much faster and releases working memory for other tasks. On Recalling, the author says 'read less, recall more'. Totally agree!The book has many tips from a wide variety of people - junior students to experienced psychologists - on how they overcame their inhibitions towards the learning of some difficult subjects. These are definitely motivating. The 'Summing it up' sections at the end of each chapter provide for a great reference that we can come back to in case we need to refresh our memories.All in all - if you want to learn something and are having a tough time to do it, read this book while applying those techniques to what you are trying to learn.

Review by

I read this book as a companion to the Coursera course "Learning How to Learn," which is taught by the author and is, in fact, nearly identical to the book. But for once I wouldn't brush it off as unnecessarily repetitive; in fact, I'd recommend both the video lecture-based course and the book together. Reading the book really helped drive home some of the key points from the lectures by actually putting them into practice. Spaced repetition and recall - reviewing material some time after you've learned it - are easy to do when the book and lectures are covering the exact same material, but you're a little behind in the book where you are in the lectures, and vice versa. Oakley also recommends trying to recall the material in a different setting than you originally learned it, to build flexibility into your understanding - easy to do when I was watching the lectures at home on my computer and reading the book at work over lunch.I'm not in school any more, but I've been trying to improve my math skills (I got good grades in school by avoiding math wherever possible), and this book & course have offered me some useful techniques for learning, partially just by making it clear what I was already doing instinctively to learn things that come easily to me. Now that I know what those things are, it should be easier to apply them in situations where I have to stretch myself a little more.

Also by Barbara Oakley