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A Mind for Numbers

A Mind for NumbersBy Barbara Oakley
Review by Sanskrithi (Medicine)

Before coming to university to study Medicine I had read a few medically and clinically oriented books. Though these books gave me a great perspective how things could be like in the clinical world, few gave me an insight into being a good student.

In the first two years of medicine at Oxford, there are a lot of new words and concepts to understand and cement in memory as a base for further clinical work. I struggled to remember everything and to work efficiently without procrastinating. Before starting my third year in medicine, I decided to learn how to learn.

After some searching, I found A Mind For Numbers by Barbara Oakley. Though the title of the book seems to point to maths and science, the books cover a large range of methods to help you learn techniques to learn better.

Unlike some books which are very narrow and specific to a particular technique in a “one size fits all” fashion, this book gives techniques we could all use in daily life to be more efficient in our work. It focuses on switching between the “focused” and “diffuse” thinking states, practising “chunking” to ease the load of learning a big amount of information and firmly imprint the knowledge in long-term memory. The book covers other such techniques which are very easy to integrate into daily learning. The book contains anecdotes from scientists, educators, and students which help the book to be more engaging and relatable.

The techniques explained in the book are applicable to anyone, at any stage of life and learning. I highly recommend this book to everyone and especially those who are in transition stages of education, like coming up to university. It is very easy as a student to drift away from a task, to become too fixated on flawed approaches, to leave revision to the last minute before exams. However, this book showed me that the power to re-shape our brain is in our own hands. The key is persistence and working with consideration to your brain’s strengths and weaknesses.

A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even If You Flunked Algebra) by Barbara Oakley
ISBN-10: 039916524X
ISBN-13: 9780399165245

Try checking the availability of this book at your school or local library or explore second hand bookshops and websites. You may also wish to purchase from either Amazon or Blackwell’s.

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