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Summary

The companion book to COURSERA®'s wildly popular massive open online course "Learning How to Learn"

Whether you are a student struggling to fulfill a math or science requirement, or you are embarking on a career change that requires a new skill set, A Mind for Numbers offers the tools you need to get a better grasp of that intimidating material. 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 learning effectively - 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 300 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. 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. The learning strategies in this book apply not only to math and science but to any subject in which we struggle. We all have what it takes to excel in areas that don't seem to come naturally to us at first, and learning them does not have to be as painful as we might think.

©2014 Barbara Oakley (P)2021 Penguin Audio

Critic reviews

“If you struggled through math and slept through science, there’s hope. In A Mind for Numbers, polymath Barbara Oakley reveals how to unlock the analytic powers of our brains so we can learn how to learn. This book should be required reading for students - and for my mother.” (Adam Grant, New York Times best-selling author of The Originals)

“A good teacher will leave you educated. But a great teacher will leave you curious. Well, Barbara Oakley is a great teacher. Not only does she have a mind for numbers, she has a way with words, and she makes every one of them count.” (Mike Rowe, creator and host of Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs and CEO of mikeroweWORKS) 

“In my book The Math Instinct, I described how we have known since the early 1990s that all ordinary people can do mathematics, and in The Math Gene, I explained why the capacity for mathematical thinking is both a natural consequence of evolution and yet requires effort to unleash it. What I did not do is show how to tap in to that innate ability. Professor Oakley does just that." (Keith Devlin, NPR Weekend Edition’s “Math Guy”) 

What listeners say about A Mind for Numbers

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should be mandatory

this book should be mandatory for anyone in education. I wish I had come upon this book earlier in my life

1 person found this helpful

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Overrated

Basic study tips, which is not in particularly useful for mathematics. Good book if you do not have a study-technique.

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  • MN
  • 05-04-22

She knows what she’s talking about.

Please give a copy of this book to every young student you know and have them read and reread it every year!

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  • Anonymous User
  • 03-11-21

Worst audiobook yet

Imagine sifting rambling irelevant nonsense only to finally reveal basic concepts better described by other writers who spend less time saying nothing.

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  • Nathan
  • 24-05-22

A must read.

Breaks down how the mind learns and provides essential strategies to increase learning ability. Highly recommend!

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  • dumbtex
  • 23-03-22

Very valuable information although catered to students

I realize I’m in the minority of this books demographic however I’m not in school I’m learning on my own so several analogies and even an entire chapter in the end of test were meaningless to me. I will say there’s a lot of value in the information and tips nonetheless and would recommend for anyone learning difficult topics in STEM especially. I’d also recommend listening in segments because this book has a very structured almost directional approach and if your like me and have a tendency to mentally wonder this is a book to be split up not a road trip book. I really enjoyed it overall I think Barbara brought a lot of insight and applicable tools in my nevertheless quest for more knowledge.