After reading the book The Smartest Kids in the World: and How They got that Way, I started wondering how much can pedagogy be taught, and how much of it is just having a good personality. And by “good personality” I was thinking of the charismatic “hail fellow well met type”. I should have remembered that people with “hail fellow well met” type of personalities, usually get more credit than they deserve see the book Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World that can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. Should teachers be required to get a good education or does getting a degree in physical education, qualify you to teach math in high school. How much can training benefit a teacher?
Science reporter Ben Carey provides us with a user’s manual for how our brains work.
Some of the methods I learned from this book seemed intuitively correct, but I didn’t know why they worked; other methods were new to me. I did know that studying for two hours straight is less effective than studying one hour on one day and then another hour a couple of days later. The deeper we have to dig to retrieve a piece of information, the more likely it is to stick. This explains why comprehensive exams are better for you, though less popular. I did know that when you reach an impasse, you should stop, take a break, then go back to the problem. I’ve advised my husband to do this, but now I have evidence to back me up.
I didn’t realize how important it is to mix things up, what author Carey calls interleavement. Drills are fine, but you don’t want to spend a long period of time on the same one, or same type of problem. For example when practicing music do some scales, then some etudes, then play a piece through, then work on tone, then go back to scales, etc. Carey posits that this is really critical in math because you need to be able to figure out which type of formula to apply to different problems. Often in school, students do fine on an individual section, but then fail the comprehensive test because now they have to select which formula to apply. Another way to mix things up is to study in different places and under different conditions, though if you can study in the room where you will take the test, this will assist you when you take the test, but not in the long run. You want to know if you are merely studying to pass a given test, or want to retain the knowledge for the long run.
I enjoyed the way Carey wove together academic research studies with real world applications. I liked this book a lot, and wish more of my teachers and professors had imparted this type of knowledge.