06 - Practice Makes Permanent

دوره: Coursera – Learning How to Learn / درس 6

Coursera – Learning How to Learn

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06 - Practice Makes Permanent

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Yep, that’s me when I was 10.

I loved animals, handicrafts, and


Back then, I was the belligerent queen of


I neglected, ignored, flunked, and

downright hated math and

science all through grade school, middle

school, and high school.

It’s strange to realize I’m now a

professor of Engineering.

I enlisted in the army right out of high

school to study language at the Defense

Language Institute.

That’s me at 18, looking very nervous

and very focused while throwing a hand


I only started to study math and science

when I

was 26 years old, after I got out of the


At first, it was really hard.

There were all these quick thinkers in my

classes who

seemed to get everything a lot easier and

faster than me.

Sometimes I’d take a break for a few

months, I’d

go out and work as a Russian translator on

Soviet trawlers.

That’s me up in the Bering Sea.

And I’d come back to school and try and

learn some more.

As I gained technical know-how, new doors

started opening up for me.

I ended up working as a radio operator at

the South Pole Station in Antarctica.

That’s where I met my husband.

I always say I had to go the end of the

Earth to meet that man.

Here he is, after only 10 minutes outside

at minus 70 degrees Fahrenheit with a

60-mile-an-hour wind.

The wind chill takes it off the charts.

Now, I wasn’t natural in math and science.

Not at all.

The way I succeeded was to gradually begin

to figure out some tricks.

But let’s back up a step.

In the greater scheme of all the different

careers and disciplines that people

can pursue, why are those involving math

and science, sometimes, a bit more


We think it may be related, at least in

part, to the abstract nature of the ideas.

I mean, let’s take a cow for example, out

standing in a field.

If you have the word cow, you can point

right to a cow to learn what that word


Even the letters for the word cow, C-O-W,

are roughly analogous to sounds that they

stand for.

But for mathematical ideas, there’s often

no analogous thing that you can point to.

There are no plus signs standing out in a


No multiplication, division, or other

kinds of things that

can directly equate to mini mathematical

or scientific terms.

These terms are more abstract, in other


Well, you might say, yeah, but what about

ones like love, zest, or hope?

Those are all abstract.

Yes they are, but the thing is, these

abstract terms are often related to our


We can feel our emotions, even if we can’t


and point to concrete examples, like we

could with the cow.

This means it’s important to practice with

ideas and concepts your

learning in math and science, just like

anything else you’re learning.

to help enhance and strengthen the neural

connection your making during the learning


You can see on your left here the symbolic

representation of a thought pattern.

Neurons become linked together through

repeated use.

The more abstract something is, the more

important it is to

practice in order to bring those ideas

into reality for you.

Even if the ideas you’re dealing with are

abstract, the

neural thought patterns you are creating

are real and concrete.

At least they are if you build and

strengthen them through practice.

Here’s a way to picture what’s going on.

When you first begin to understand

something, for example, how to

solve a problem, the neural pattern from

is there, but very weak.

Kind of like the faint pattern at the top

of our pinball machine analogy here.

When you solve the problem again fresh

from the start, without looking at the


You, if you begin deepening that neuron

pattern, kind of

like the darker pattern you see here in

the middle.

And when you have the problem down cold,

so you can go over

each step completely and concisely in your

mind without even looking at the solution,

and you’ve even had practice on related

problems, why then, the pattern

is like this dark firm pattern you can see

towards the bottom of the pinball frame.

Practice makes permanent.

When you’re learning, what you want to do

is study something.

Study it hard by focusing intently.

Then take a break or at least change your

focus to something different for awhile.

During this time of seeming relaxation,

your brain’s diffuse mode has a chance to

work away in the background and help you

out with your conceptual understanding.

Your, your neural mortar in some sense has

a chance to dry.

If you don’t do this, if instead you learn

by cramming, your knowledge base will

look more like this, all in a jumble with

everything confused, a poor foundation.

If you have problems with procrastination,

that’s when

you want to use the Pomodoro, that brief


This helps you get going, using brief


each day of focused attention, that will


you start building the neural patterns you


to be more successful in learning more

challenging materials.

Next stop, we’ll be talking about

chunking, the vital

essence of how you grasp and master key


I’m Barbara Oakley.


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