Insights from A Mind for Numbers by Barbara Oakley

Insights from A Mind for Numbers by Barbara Oakley

Is there anything like having a natural mind for maths?

Barbara thought she could never learn maths and science, but instead of quitting, she decided to learn how to learn maths and she began to enjoy it.

She later became a professor of engineering because she learned she could learn anything when she was equipped with the right learning techniques.

She realized you can learn maths and anything through an analogy, a comparison with something you already know.

And the techniques she described most is the ability to frequently switch between focus and diffuse mode of thinking.


Focus mode is concentrated attention(conscious thinking), it is using sequential and logical though. Operated with the prefrontal cortex a small area of the brain

Diffuse mode is relaxed attention(unconscious processing), allowing your brain to consider a wide range of things. Operated with many regions around the brain

We need to be able to switch between these two modes of thinking.

Barbara recommends three things

  1. Set a timer for 25 minutes in which you focus on a particular thing, it may be painful but, its worth it.
  2. Take a 5 minutes break
  3. Repeat the process, after a few rounds of focusing if you get stuck then it’s time to go into diffuse mode. It’s okay to quit when it doesn’t work.

Taking a break to let your mind wander is the most important part to receiving a breakthrough in your understanding of what you’re trying to learn.


Recall and Retell:

To supercharge your learning, recall and retell what you’re learning by stepping away and asking yourself; “what was the most important thing?” Recite whatever that may be without looking at the material


As an individual: it’s okay to quit when you are having a thinking block

Author: Victor Adeyemo

Victor Adeyemo is a Leadership and high performance coach, an Event decorator and MC. He is the team leader of Leaders Digest

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