Barb Oakley may be a Professor of Engineering now but all through high school she was a self-professed math hater. She got a D in geometry…twice. She far preferred to follow her passions for literature and languages than waste her time doing something that seemed worthless. After joining the army, learning fluent Russian and getting a degree in it, she was assigned to work as a communications officer and found herself suddenly surrounded by engineers. She realized that unless she made a serious course correction her opportunities in life were going to be severely limited. So, she decided to follow her non-passion and master mathematics. In her latest book, A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Mathematics (even if you flunked Algebra), Barb (as she insists we all call her) lays out the simple techniques that she, top teachers and students have used and that you can use too to master mathematics…or anything.
What makes Barb’s latest book so interesting is how it fits in with her previous books. While this book heavily explores the individual’s power to determine what their brains become, previous books like Evil Genes and Pathological Altruism explore the parts of human nature that are hard-wired within us. In this interview, we further explore the relation of Nature + Nurture and how ideological agendas can distort the fearless investigation of the science. All of Barb’s books are available on Amazon. We’ll be reading them all and bringing her back on the show. (Huge thanks to David Sloan Wilson for recommending her.)
In other news, Barb is starting a Learning How to Learn MOOC this Friday (aka tomorrow) on Coursera. You can find it here: https://www.coursera.org/course/learning. It looks awesome. Just like Barb.
Here are the links to the studies Barb mentioned in the show:
McCord, Joan. “A Thirty-Year Follow-up of Treatment Effects.” American Psychologist 33, no. 3 (1978): 284.
And here’s the link to the study on the virtually non-existent replication of research in education:
Matthew Makel, Jonathan Plucker, “Facts Are More Important Than Novelty: Replication in the Education Sciences,” Educational Researcher, August 14, 2014. DOI: 10.3102/0013189X14545513
There’s also a very nice popular article discussion of Makel and Plucker’s study from Inside Higher Ed: “Failure to Replicate,” by Charlie Tyson