A Mind For Numbers | Barbara Oakley summary

Lady luck favors the one who tries

Why trying too hard can sometimes be part of the problem. Easy does it.

Focused versus diffuse thinking

Focused mode is essential for math and science. It involves a direct approach to solving problems using rational, sequential and analytical approach. Turn your attention to something and bam, the focused mode is on.

Diffused mode is what happens when you relax your attention and just let your mind wander. This relaxation can allow different areas of the brain to hook up and return valuable insights. It flow from preliminary thinking been made in focus mode

Diffuse is good when you learn something new , it doesn't help to focus tightly and solve a specific problem intently. But it can allow to get closer to solution.

Sometimes the problem that we have in science, together with procrastination is the einstellung effect. An idea you already have in mind or thought, prevents a better idea or solution to be found.

You can't start doing homework or project, before you read the textbook, attend lectures, view online lessons or took notices.

Instead, when you start something new, diffuse mode is the ticket.

The relaxation is an important part of hard work, and good work .

The diffuse mode is an important part of problem solving, especially when the problem is difficult. But as long as we are consciously focusing, we are blocking the diffuse mode

Small tip for procrastination :

set clock for 25 min full focus, no phone, web and so on. 5 min of relax after(pomodoro method)

Learning is creating ch 3

Shifting from focus to diffuse happens naturally if oyou distract yourself and then allow a little time to pass. You can go for a walk, nap, gym and so on.

Once you are distracted from the problem at hand, the diffuse mode has access and can begin pingin about in its big picture way to setter on a solution. After your break, you will often be surprised at how easily the solution pops into place. Even if the solution does not appear, you will often be further along in your understanding.

Trick from dali and edison : sleep with apple in the hand until it falls down.

Sometimes when you fail, think about as its not failed, instead as a way that wont work. Mistakes are inevitable. Think about base mountain stations to take a rest and check everything( thats the diffuse thinking)

Like for example when you lift weights: it won't make your muscles any biggers just lifting, you need to rest and grown before you use them again

Consistency over time is key


Gym, sport, swim, run, dance, drive, draw, bath/shower, music, play songs, meditate, sleep(the ultimate mode)

Big rewards used finally: video games, surf web, talk friends, read, text, tv

With practice alternate fast from focus to diffuse can be extremely beneficial, but we have to practice to get to that pace.


Usually a few hours is enough for the diffuse mode to take significant progress, but not to much

When you are first learning new concepts, dont let it for more than a day untouched

If you feel frustration, it's a signal to shift to diffuse mode.

Short term memory – ram, long term – hard drive

In order to properly store it in the long term, you need to use repetition, otherwise it will get difficult to retrieve that information

Putting a day between bouts of repetition or extend your practice over a number o days can make a big difference. Better do it 20 days, then 20 times in 1 day

When you tackle a tough problem, work on it for a few minutes. Then if you get stuck, move on to another. Your diffuse mode will work on background. When you later return to the tougher problem. You will notice big progress

21 minutes nap time can work great

Sleep is a vital part of memory and learning.During sleep ccleaner brain

Studying one hour rested - > bigger than studying 3 hours tired

Chunking and avoiding illusions of competence ch 4

It appears the concept of chunking the information. You get the main idea , and don't remember all the little details, and that's enough.

In general, you first take the example/practice and try to understand how to work the problem. That means sometimes it's better to get a full explained resolution and after that get the main concept out of it.

So to put it in steps : you first focus your attention on that information.

Then you try to understand the basic idea you want to chunk.

After that, is gaining context, not just how but when to use this chunk.

Attempting to recall the material you are trying to learn, retrieval practica, is far more effective than simply rereading the material.

Using recall mental retrieval of the key ideas, rather than passive rereading will make you more focused and effective

For limited study time what you can do is :

Read but don't solve yet assigned homework practice/ exams/quizzes and so on

review lecture notes - > rework example problems - > work assigned homework/rest

Preventing procrastination ch5

Think at procrastination as a poison. It goes together with distractions

We procrastinate about things make us feel uncomfortable.. The more you delay a project/homework/study or whatever because you think its painful the more painful to think about it in the long term is going to be.

Procrastination is a single, monumentally keystone bad habit..



PROCRASTINATION IS LIKE AN ADDICTION, it offers temporary excitement and relief from boring reality.

Like any habit, procrastination is something you can fall into.

To sum it up : we procrastinate about things that make us feel uncomfortable. But what makes us feel good temporarily isn't necessarily good for us in the long run.

Also it can be like tiny amounts of poison. It may not seem harmful at the time. But the long term effects can be very damaging

CH6 The power of habit

When you are in a habit, you are like in a zombie mode, its very good because it saves energy, and you dont think in a focused manner.

We have the cue, the routine, the reward and the belief

The cue: recognize what launches you into your zombie, procrastination mode at the same time. Its about location,time,how you feel, something just happened?

The routine: the key here is to have a plan.

The reward: offer yourself a reward after the study/work done.

The belief: the most part of changing your procrastination habit is the belief that you can do it. Sometimes is going to get hard or stressed, but you have to keep on.

Also you can make use of mental contrasts.

Learn how to focus on the process instead of product.

Process is the flow of time and the habits/actions associated with it.( I am going to spend 20 min doing that for ex). Product is the outcome(project you need to finish). The product is what triggers the pain and cause you to procrastinate.

Here is also a place where Pomodoro can help a lot. Focus on working for a time, not to finish a task or complete it

Multitasking is not helping in those cases because is not letting you able to make a full connection in your thinking. Ignorance is a bliss . Practice ignoring distractions.

Failure is the best teacher if you know how to cope with it and use it as a learning tool.

Chunking vs choking ch7

Work a key problem. Do another repetition paying attention to it . Take a break. Sleep, but before work the problem again. Do another repetición. Add a new problem. And repeat. That's how you make a mental library. Everyday more and more

Be organized with your stuff and everything you do.

Tools tips and tricks ch8

Use a quiet section of library for example for procrastination. Use meditation.reframe your focus(wake up early because breakfast xD)

Quit wasting time and just get on with it. Once you get it going, you will feel better about it.

Self experiment with yourself. You need to figure out what's best for you.

Ultimate guide: Once a week write a list of key tasks. Each day write a list of tasks that you can work on. Then again write the task list in the evening for next.

Pause and reflection are the key ch 9

You have to couple up passion with rationality, not just blindly follow your passion.

Enhance your memory ch 10

The power of memorable visual images. An image is so important to memory because it connects directly in your right brain visuospatial center. The image help you encapsulate a hard to remember concept by tapping into visual areas with enhanced memory abilities.

Here we have the memory palace technique. It means we have to try to build images for phrases/words we want to learn deep down inside your brain.

Its not easy at the beginning, but with practice it becomes easier and easier.

More memory tips ch 11

Using metaphors or analogies to make a visual representation.

You repeat the same information but with another format(metaphor).

Also you can create stories with those things you want to learn. Imagination is the key here , in this concept.

In resume, by using mental pictures instead of words to remember things, you can progress faster and it can greatly enhance your ability to learn and retain the material.

Learning to appreciate your talent ch 12

Nobody born perfect. The people that are successful, are because of long time investment in themselves, practicing and working towards that goal. Their knowledge or abilities was built over time and with plenty of exercise.

The practice is the one that can help lift the brain and make it more capable of acquiring new info/knowledge and so on. Practice practice and more practice

Sculpting your brain ch 13

The key of success is perseverance, coupled with his flexible ability to adapt and admit errors. Sometimes work and concentration substitutes for talent or better yet, it creates talent.

We can make significant changes in our brain by changing how we think.

Santiago ramón y cajal example – nobel prize, father of modern neuroscience

Developing the mind eye through equation poems ch 14

One of the most important things we can do when we are trying to learn, is to bring the abstract ideas to life in our minds.

Einstein was able to imagine himself as a photon. His success cam from his ability to pretend. Barbara McClintock, nobel prize genetic – he imagined she was inside a chromosome.

It may look silly to make the elements you study as a living creatures. But it is how it works. You can understand better when you look at them instead of just dry numbers and formulas.

Renaissance learning ch15

Persistence is often more important than intelligence.

The value of great teachers and how we have to make use of it.

At the same time, be wary of the intellectual snipers. That means the greater your achievement, the more other people will attack and demean your efforts. But don't let this down. When you have failure, you have to remember that failures are better teachers than successes.

At the same time remember :

learning on your own, is one of the deepest, most effective ways to approach learning.

In learning persistence is far more important than intelligence.

Reach out for people you admire, don't be scared and afraid to do it.

If you aren't fast enough to get it, don't despair, have patience. Remember consistency.

And lastly, learn how to do deal with people.

Avoid overconfidence ch16

Try to always learn from people around you, no matter who they are or what they do. There is always something to learn, don't think you know it all, because you don't .

Test taking ch17

testing yourself is an extraordinarily powerful learning experience.

Sometimes, we use the start with easy go to hard path.

But it was found better to when you start working problems, start first with what appears to be the hardest one. But after 1-2 minutes if you get stuck, or you feel you are not the right track, pull yourself away from it.

Like a chef in the kitchen, while the meat is being prepared, you focus on salad and so on.

Also, when you feel anxiety, the best you can do is to draw your attention into breathing.

At the same time remember: when you are taking a test: double check your answer using a big picture perspective, asking yourself: does it really make sense?

Unlock your potential ch18

Once again the main point here is the persistence.


Use recall. Read a page , then look away and try recall the main ideas.

Test yourself. All the time. On everything

Chunk your problems. Understand and practice with a problem solution.

Space your repetition. Your brain is like a muscle of your body.

Alternate different problem-solving techniques

Take breaks (pomodoro technique)

Use explanatory questions with simple analogies

Focus entirely. Don't get distracted

Do the hardest things earliest in the day, when you are fresh.

Make mental pictures/mental contrast. Past to future image, what motivates you.

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