Metacognition: thinking about thinking
If you really want to learn, and you want to learn more quickly and more deeply,
pay attention to how you pay attention. Think about how you think. Learn how you
Most of us did not take courses on metacognition or learning theory when we were
growing up. We were expected to learn, but rarely taught to learn.
But we assume that if you’re holding this book, you really want (or need) to learn
I wonder how I
can trick my brain
about geometry. And you probably don’t want to spend a lot of time. And since
you’re going to have to use this stuff in the future, you need to remember what you
read. And for that, you’ve got to understand it. To get the most from this book, or any
book or learning experience, take responsibility for your brain.
Your brain on geometry.
The trick is to get your brain to see the new material you’re learning
as Really Important. Crucial to your well-being. As important as a
tiger. Otherwise, you’re in for a constant battle, with your brain doing
its best to keep the new content from sticking.
So just how
you get your brain to think that
geometry is a hungry tiger?
There’s the slow, tedious way, or the faster, more effective way. The
slow way is about sheer repetition. You obviously know that you
are able to learn and remember even the dullest of topics if you
keep pounding the same thing into your brain. With enough repetition, your
brain says, “This doesn’t feel important to him, but he keeps looking at the same thing over
and over and over, so I suppose it must be.”
The faster way is to do anything that increases brain activity, especially different
types of brain activity. The things on the previous page are a big part of the solution,
and they’re all things that have been proven to help your brain work in your favor. For
example, studies show that putting words within the pictures they describe (as opposed to
somewhere else in the page, like a caption or in the body text) causes your brain to try to
makes sense of how the words and picture relate, and this causes more neurons to fire.
More neurons firing = more chances for your brain to get that this is something worth
paying attention to, and possibly recording.
A conversational style helps because people tend to pay more attention when they
perceive that they’re in a conversation, since they’re expected to follow along and hold up
their end. The amazing thing is, your brain doesn’t necessarily care that the “conversation”
is between you and a book! On the other hand, if the writing style is formal and dry, your
brain perceives it the same way you experience being lectured to while sitting in a roomful
of passive attendees. No need to stay awake.
But pictures and conversational style are just the beginning.
you are here 4 xxi