Monday, July 8, 2019

Reading At The Pool

How We Learn by Benedict Carey

You know all those things you know about the best way to learn? Set a regular routine, find a quiet place, avoid interruptions and distractions, stay focused on your work, study by going over your readings and your notes, right? Wrong. Science proves that all of those practices get in the way of how our brains actually learn. If you or someone you love is in the business of being a student, you owe it to yourself to read this amazing book. 

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My idea of a perfect poolside book does not normally include graduate level college textbooks. But the title of this volume from my daughter's Masters in Education coursework had intrigued me for months. So while packing for my recent trip to Mexico, I tucked it into my suitcase. Little did I know that my mind was about to be blown. 

As a person who teaches math to homeschooled high schoolers, I get a pretty good window into the reality of how today's teenagers study. They struggle to keep up a regular homework schedule, and flop around various places - sprawled across the couch, sitting at a table, lying on the bed as they try to get some work done. Distractions flow freely - every few minutes, their phone chimes or a sibling sets them off - and when they come across a difficult problem, they often give up and walk away for a while.

I must confess their habits pretty much mirror the way I studied at their age.

Except I didn't get phone notifications. Instead, our landline would ring and I would rocket out of my room to be the first to grab it.

Adults generally get frustrated with this behavior. We tend to talk about responsibility, dedication, focus, and finishing what you start. There's an emphasis on proper scheduling and setting of routines. It all comes down, so we say, to discipline and that includes plenty of study time for tests.

So it's a bit disconcerting for us adults to hear that the current body of research makes it crystal clear that those traditional study habits should promptly be thrown right out the window. That's a huge pivot and not one that I take lightly.

Which is why I most enthusiastically recommend that anyone who

is parenting a high school student,
will be parenting a high school student within the next ten years,
teaches students of any age, or
is just naturally curious about how we learn


You will be amazed. I promise.

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P.S. Shout out to John Saxon, author of the truly innovative math curriculum that I have used for twenty years, who intuitively incorporated some fabulous learning theory into his textbooks, and therefore got his very own two-paragraph shout out in this book starting on page 166.

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To read more about John Saxon and my infinite respect for his educational genius, read this:

Be sure to check out the photos. 

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Read more about what I've been reading:

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