How much do I want to continue reading this book? 8/10

I read the two first chapters and the content is pretty similar with other books from the author, that's why it's a bit less fascinating than the first time. Still, I'd like to read through all the content and apply those techniques in my own learning experiences.
I really wish I knew all those tricks when I was a student. It's not a matter of luck anymore as you can know discover effective techniques in this kind of book. It can be such a game changer in someone's life. We're all learners, from begining to the end.

A NOTE TO PARENTS AND TEACHERS

Some of the ideas in this book were discussed in Barb’s bestselling A Mind for Numbers.
this book is intended for tweens and teens—although adults will also find a treasure trove of new and practical ideas here.

Active involvement is key—the exercises are helpful only if they are completed. The book is best read with a notebook at the side, to take notes, answer questions, and make doodles with key insights.

CHAPTER 1: THE PROBLEM WITH PASSION

Everybody told me to follow my passion. I figured that meant, Do what you like, not what you don’t like.

Whether you are interested in soccer, math, dance, chemistry, riding a unicycle, learning another language, getting better at video games, or understanding the physics of how a ball bounces, this book is for you.

Brains are amazing. They’re the most sophisticated gadgets in the universe. They change their structure depending on what you do with them.

Pretty much anyone can do well in any subject if they know more about learning. Your brain is more powerful than you think.

if learning is slow and hard for you, you actually have special advantages in the creativity department.

How I Changed My Brain

Learning a new language didn’t come easily for me. I didn’t have a good memory, so I had to practice a lot. But gradually, I got better.

Disaster Strikes

It’s easy to believe that you should only concentrate on subjects that come easily for you. But my story reveals that you can do well in subjects you don’t even like.
it’s okay to follow your passions. But I also found that broadening my passions opened many wonderful opportunities.


It’s important to do a “picture walk” through the book to see the pictures and the section headings before you begin reading.

I used to go through my textbook page by page. I was trying to make sure I understood all the ideas before I turned the page.
Don’t do this! It was a big mistake.

CHAPTER 2: EASY DOES IT

Why Trying Too Hard Can Sometimes Be Part of the Problem

Surprise! Sometimes we need to lose concentration so we can think more clearly.

Focused Mode

When you are trying to learn something new, you must first focus intently on it in order to “turn on” those parts of the brain and get the learning process started.

Diffuse Mode

Diffuse mode is when your mind is relaxed and free. You’re thinking about nothing in particular. You’re in diffuse mode when you’re daydreaming or doodling just for fun.

The diffuse mode helps you make imaginative connections between ideas. Creativity often seems to pop out of using the diffuse mode.

It turns out that your brain has to go back and forth between focused and diffuse modes in order to learn effectively.

Let’s Play Pinball

When the bumpers are close together, it’s like your brain in focused mode. The ball bounces around rapidly in one small area before running out of energy and falling down.

Imagine that your mental ball leaves a trail when it travels.
If I asked you to work a multiplication problem, your thoughts would move along the same “multiplication trails” that had already been laid in your brain.

Switching Between Focused and Diffuse Modes

Your mind stays in focused mode as long as you keep using the flippers. But when you let go of the flippers, your mind goes free! The ball drops down onto the diffuse table.

it’s difficult to keep our attention on something for long periods of time.

Entering diffuse mode: Going for a walk helps. Or looking out a window from a bus. Or taking a shower. Or falling asleep.
Focusing on something else can take us temporarily into diffuse mode related to what we’re not focusing on.
When we’re focusing on someone else’s chess game, we’re not focused on our own chess game.

when you’re stuck on a math problem, you can instead switch your focus to studying geography for a while. Then you can make a breakthrough when you return to the math.

Use all the same coins to make a new triangle that points down. You can move only three coins.

Getting Stuck

There are two ways you can get stuck when you’re trying to solve a math or science problem. Or when you’re trying to learn something new.

The first way you can get stuck happens when you don’t catch the initial explanation. Unfortunately, with this kind of “stuck,” going into diffuse mode won’t be much use. You haven’t “loaded” anything into your focused mode.

The second way you can get stuck is when you’ve studied or focused carefully—you’ve loaded the explanation into your focused mode. But you still find yourself stuck. You grow more and more frustrated.
The reason you get stuck is that you haven’t given your brain’s diffuse mode a chance to help out! The diffuse mode can’t get going until you take your attention off what it’s focused on.

When you’re in diffuse mode, your brain is working on the problem quietly in the background, although you’re often not aware of it.

Important Learning Tip: Don’t Jump to Conclusions about Whether or Not New Learning Strategies Work

Don’t try switching just once between focused and diffuse modes while you’re studying and then decide that it doesn’t work for you. Sometimes you have to go back and forth several times between focused and diffuse to figure something out. You need to focus hard enough on trying to understand the material before you take a break.

When you do take a break, you need to make sure it’s long enough for you to get your mind completely off the material. It’s worth sticking it out and experimenting with the process.

Going back and forth between focused and diffuse modes will help you to master virtually anything.

Use These Diffuse Mode Tools as Rewards After Focused Mode Work

The following diffuse mode activators are best used briefly as rewards. These activities may pull you into a more focused mode than the preceding activities. It can sometimes be a good idea to set a timer, or they can eat up too much time.

SUMMING IT UP

Focused and diffuse modes

Our brains operate in two modes: focused and diffuse. You can think of them as pinball tables that have tightly packed bumpers and spread-out bumpers. We need to alternate between these two modes to learn well.

Shifting modes

You shift into focused mode by focusing. Grab those flippers on the pinball machine! But you have to let go and wait for the ball to drop on its own to get into the diffuse mode. The bed, the bath, the bus, and simply going for a walk are great ways to fall into the diffuse mode.

To be a successful problem solver, focus first

We get stuck in problem solving when we don’t first prepare our brain by focusing on the basics. Don’t just dive into problem solving without studying the explanations first. You need to lay some basic trails on the focused pinball table.

Take breaks to get new problem-solving perspectives

We can also get stuck on a difficult problem even when we’ve prepared properly. In that case, be a little like the chess-playing Magnus. Wander off for a while and see what else is going on. Take a break. But come back to the game, or you’ll lose for sure!

CHECK YOUR UNDERSTANDING

  1. What does it mean to be in focused mode?
  2. What is diffuse mode? And what are your favorite diffuse activities?
  3. How does a pinball machine (or two) help you understand how your brain works?
  4. What is another metaphor for focused and diffuse modes?
  5. What are the two different ways you can get stuck when you are solving a math and science problem?

We can also get stuck on a difficult problem even when we’ve prepared properly. In that case, be a little like the chess-playing Magnus. Wander off for a while and see what else is going on. Take a break. But come back to the game, or you’ll lose for sure!

CHECK YOUR UNDERSTANDING

  1. What does it mean to be in focused mode?
  2. What is diffuse mode? And what are your favorite diffuse activities?
  3. How does a pinball machine (or two) help you understand how your brain works?
  4. What is another metaphor for focused and diffuse modes?
  5. What are the two different ways you can get stuck when you are solving a math and science problem?

We can also get stuck on a difficult problem even when we’ve prepared properly. In that case, be a little like the chess-playing Magnus. Wander off for a while and see what else is going on. Take a break. But come back to the game, or you’ll lose for sure!

CHECK YOUR UNDERSTANDING

  1. What does it mean to be in focused mode?
  2. What is diffuse mode? And what are your favorite diffuse activities?
  3. How does a pinball machine (or two) help you understand how your brain works?
  4. What is another metaphor for focused and diffuse modes?
  5. What are the two different ways you can get stuck when you are solving a math and science problem?

We can also get stuck on a difficult problem even when we’ve prepared properly. In that case, be a little like the chess-playing Magnus. Wander off for a while and see what else is going on. Take a break. But come back to the game, or you’ll lose for sure!

CHECK YOUR UNDERSTANDING

  1. What does it mean to be in focused mode?
  2. What is diffuse mode? And what are your favorite diffuse activities?
  3. How does a pinball machine (or two) help you understand how your brain works?
  4. What is another metaphor for focused and diffuse modes?
  5. What are the two different ways you can get stuck when you are solving a math and science problem?

We can also get stuck on a difficult problem even when we’ve prepared properly. In that case, be a little like the chess-playing Magnus. Wander off for a while and see what else is going on. Take a break. But come back to the game, or you’ll lose for sure!

CHECK YOUR UNDERSTANDING

  1. What does it mean to be in focused mode?
  2. What is diffuse mode? And what are your favorite diffuse activities?
  3. How does a pinball machine (or two) help you understand how your brain works?
  4. What is another metaphor for focused and diffuse modes?
  5. What are the two different ways you can get stuck when you are solving a math and science problem?

We can also get stuck on a difficult problem even when we’ve prepared properly. In that case, be a little like the chess-playing Magnus. Wander off for a while and see what else is going on. Take a break. But come back to the game, or you’ll lose for sure!

CHECK YOUR UNDERSTANDING

  1. What does it mean to be in focused mode?
  2. What is diffuse mode? And what are your favorite diffuse activities?
  3. How does a pinball machine (or two) help you understand how your brain works?
  4. What is another metaphor for focused and diffuse modes?
  5. What are the two different ways you can get stuck when you are solving a math and science problem?

We can also get stuck on a difficult problem even when we’ve prepared properly. In that case, be a little like the chess-playing Magnus. Wander off for a while and see what else is going on. Take a break. But come back to the game, or you’ll lose for sure!

CHECK YOUR UNDERSTANDING

  1. What does it mean to be in focused mode?
  2. What is diffuse mode? And what are your favorite diffuse activities?
  3. How does a pinball machine (or two) help you understand how your brain works?
  4. What is another metaphor for focused and diffuse modes?
  5. What are the two different ways you can get stuck when you are solving a math and science problem?
  6. What’s the one study habit that you would change as a result of reading this chapter?

My answers:

  1. concentration, avoid distraction, set a timer for 20 min without distraction. Try to skim briefly the topic first to know the big picture.
  2. it's like spacing out, the mind can be wandering looking through the window, taking a bath, walking outside, practicing another activity, changing environment.
  3. pinball machine with bumper close to each other can represent how the focus mode is working in our brain: bumping fast in short distance. Diffuse mode is best represented with adding some extra padding between bumpers: long range enables more creativity with connecting paths that haven't been previously connected.
  4. A flashlight, with a small beam of light for the focus mode, like a laser, and a wider beam of light for diffuse mode, not as intense, but covering a broader area.
  5. If your mind didn't focus on the topic well enough, going to diffuse mode won't help to solve or to have better understanding. If you focus too hard and can't get it, it's time to take a break and enter into diffuse mode.
  6. Don't practice one activity all day long. If you have different topic to master, switch between them frequently. Don't tackle the hardest problem last to give your diffuse mode a chance to work it out through the day. Use the pomodoro technique to be more efficient during your focus mode.