Secret Life of Fat

24th January 2019

Cheery Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!

This week’s fascinating book is The Secret Life of Fat: The Science Behind the Body’s Least Understood Organ and What It Means for You, by Sylvia Tara PhD. What we love about this book is not only that it brings fat to life as the fascinating substance it is, but Tara is also a great story-teller, able to wrap us into the lives of various genetic syndromes that manifest as humans becoming too fat or too thin. We picked this book up, oddly enough, because of the title’s resonance with the book The Hidden Life of Trees, a favorite book of ours. Whatever, we’re glad we found it!

Barb in Segovia, Spain, Jan 28, London on Feb 1, and Vancouver, BC on Feb 9

If you happen to be in Segovia, Spain on January 28th, Barb will be speaking for IE University there—please just email the event coordinator to request to reserve a spot.  You can still purchase tickets for her talk at ResearchEd in Vancouver, BC, on February 9th. ResearchEd is a fantastic event for solid, research-based insights into real K-12 education—you won’t want to miss it in any case. Barb’s speech at St. Matthias School in London is now waiting list only, but give it a shot if you’re in London. Barb would love to meet you at any of these events!

Barb’s talk for the Fundación Rafael del Pino in Madrid
Fundación Rafael del Pino is one of Spain’s greatest philanthropic organizations—Spain, and the world, is lucky to have them.  See Barb’s talk two nights ago on Learning How to Learn for the Foundation here.

SmartickA Great Program for Helping Children to Learn Math

When Barb was in Madrid, she was fortunate to be able to visit Smartick’s headquarters.  Barb is a big fan of Smartick–she sees it as one of the most well-designed programs available to help kids gain the solid foundation of math practice that they often miss in today’s often hit-or-miss education approaches.) Here are some short videos that were taken during her visit:

Our Friend Nelson Dellis, 4-Time US Memory Champion, in the Wall Street JournalPlus, a New Video!

Here is a fascinating peek into Nelson Dellis’s memory methods. Key graf:  

“For a computer, ‘a piece of information is just a piece of information,’ Mr. Dellis observes. Only a person can give it meaning: ‘It can bond to another piece of information. That creates another thought or idea.’ Multiply that by years’ worth of experiences, and you end up with ‘a web of associations’ that are ‘specific to you’—an inner life. It is by harnessing that creative process that Mr. Dellis boosts his ability to process data.”

Don’t forget Nelson’s great book, Remember It! Nelson also has a new video on how to create a more complex number system to memorize more numbers. As with all of Nelson’s videos, enjoy!

People Who Read Live Longer and Have More Health Benefits

This nice article in the “Self Development Secrets” blog provides a very readable overview of the health benefits of reading.  One of many key grafs: “…reading is better at reducing stress levels than listening to music or drinking a cup of tea. The theory behind this is that reading absorbs the mind in a different world that allows people to escape their anxiety. Reading a newspaper might not have the same effect though because many stories can add further stress.”

Note-takingis Writing by Hand Really Better?

Virtually anything we read nowadays about note-taking emphasizes the value and importance of writing notes out by hand. But is that really true?  This fascinating research paper by Jansen et al, “An integrative review of the cognitive costs and benefits of note-taking,” points out that research on medical school students has found that typing on a laptop seems to work just as well as writing notes out longhand. The real trick in note-taking relates to understanding your working memory capacity. Strangely enough, those with low working memory capacity may do better by fully focusing on the lecture while it’s being given, and borrowing someone else’s notes for review purposes (those who review notes the same day the lecture is given fare best in their studies).  This echoes a long-ago finding by Kiewra and DuBois along the lines that using others’ notes, while focusing intently yourself on the lecture, can allow you to do almost as well as taking the notes yourself.

But… it’s never simple. This article, “Only Three Fingers Write, but the Whole Brain Works,” concludes that “a clear recommendation might be to combine traditional handwritten notes with visualizations (e.g., drawings, shapes, arrows, symbols) to facilitate and optimize learning. Sensory-motor information for the control of (pen) movement is picked up via the senses, and because of the involvement of the senses they leave a wider mark on establishing pathways in the brain, resulting in neural activity that governs all higher levels of cognitive processing and learning.” It would have been nice to know what the authors would have made of the contrary findings of Jansen’s nearly simultaneously published paper.  (Here’s an interesting-looking book on good note-taking.)

That’s all for this week. Have a happy week in Learning How to Learn!

Barb, Terry, and the entire Learning How to Learn team

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