Extreme Self-tutoring of Math and Related Subjects

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Anyone who wants an extreme academic challenge should read this Study Hacks blog post. Most of the students I have tutored in math, physics, and sometimes chemistry have already had good study skills so I don’t spend much time writing about how to improve them but the above article is special. It’s about how one very motivated person took accelerated learning to a whole new level. It contains a large amount of excellent advice that I wish someone had given me decades ago.

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6 Responses to Extreme Self-tutoring of Math and Related Subjects

  1. Norma says:

    Although I found this to be a very interesting article on many levels and , surely, helpful to students who are moving towards a goal of greater understanding of a subject, it is the “speed” aspect that I find a little confusing. We should all be grateful to hear about a clearer and more efficient way to sort through information to find our way to integration and an intuitive understanding. And, of course, I can see “faster” as “faster” to the paycheck, but I would not put all my energy on “faster” as the way to happiness. There are many surprises along the way that will be missed if the end is all that matters. This “faster”, more efficient way may at first seem expansive but may blind and limit one to all the sharp turns on the path that could lead one to more unique and individual satisfaction.
    The other basic belief that roots this article is “being good at things matters”. Does it? Who does it matter too? What if a human is not “good at things”…..what does that look like and then, what matters?

    • Brian says:

      I love your insights, Norma.

      The answer to you questions may boil down to a single word. Culture. In the world of software development, being good at things is of enormous importance. People who are good are respected. People who are fast are also rewarded. People who are both are revered. As a graduate of the MIT computer science program, the author will spend at least the next two decades facing high expectations. He will be compared to those predecessors of his who have become legendary figures in computer science. “I wonder if he’s as good as…?”

      Scott Young also points out that “MITs exams rely heavily on problem solving, often with unseen problem types” and that “MIT courses are highly cumulative”. This is not unique to MIT. That’s just how it is for highly technical subjects everywhere. The most horrifying place to be is behind because having to catch up is a nightmarish near-impossibility. Though the author does not mention it, the most valuable benefit of his technique may be that it works well as an insurance policy against falling behind. Someone who is way out in front can afford to stumble and recover without getting trampled.

  2. Norma says:

    This does not function as the “middle way”. Sure to include some suffering. I am seduced by people who strive……it is my basic urge….I think that we need to be grateful…I think there may be value…not fully convinced…..there is doubt. If we know what the goal is and we know what is expected……very small chance of a bigger container that may include the surprises that move us to truth. How we limit yourselves when he think we know what the end result should be. Arrogance and pride may intrude on the big picture…Nx

    • Brian says:

      Without context, the approach certainly does deserve the word “Extreme” that I used in the title but the actual outcome depends on who uses it. For those who habitually try to survive by cramming the night before the exam, following Scott Young’s advice at least some of the time would surely nudge them toward a middle way. For those fools like me who traditionally rely on a brute force approach of dedicating every available sleep-deprived hour to heroically confronting every single question in the book, his techniques would definitely represent more skillful means.

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