The Genius Ramanujan

4th January 2019

Cheery Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!

Book of the Week

The Man Who Knew Infinity: A Life of the Genius Ramanujan, by Robert Kanigel.  We first read this book not long after it originally came out in 1991.  The best biographies are often older ones, and this is definitely one of the best. We’ve been surprised over the years to find ourselves recalling all sorts of fascinating tidbits from this book, including mathematician G. H. Hardy’s horror of his own image—he hated looking in mirrors—and Ramanujan’s struggles in the damp, cold British clime. (Which reminds us to bring long underwear—Barb will be speaking at FutureLearn’s headquarters in London on January 31st.) We recently reread The Man Who Knew Infinity, and it’s even better than we remembered. If you’re looking to tuck in to a good winter’s read, this is one you’ll enjoy.

Are You a “Super-tasker”?

Research tells us it’s best to avoid multi-tasking—deliberate focus on the task at hand has long been thought to be the best approach.  But it turns out that deliberate focus on one task is the best approach for most people—but not all. You might think, well, maybe people with high working-memory capacity can probably multi-task better than others.  It turns out, though, that this isn’t exactly true. Supertaskers, who can multi-task with ease, probably related to their genetic predispositions, form a special group all of their own. Psychologists Andrew Heathcote and David Strayer have an on-line test for supertaskers (  Check the test out—if you’d like to discuss the test, your scores, or supertasking in general, join the discussion forum here.

A Review by Scott Young, the Intrepid Marco Polo of Learning, of Learning How to Learn (the book)

Scott Young took the entire 4-year MIT curriculum for computer science from their online materials.  (You may remember Scott from his interview video on learning in the MOOC Learning How to Learn.) Scott is one of the most thoughtful, innovative thinkers on the learning scene today, so we were tickled pink with his review here of Barb and Terry’s book Learning How to Learn. Check it out!

Teach Me Now

TeachMeNow was founded in 2013 for one-to-one learning in real time—it offers global on-demand experts for exams, languages, work or your passions. This seems like an excellent way to get private tutoring on whatever you might be interested in. It’s no small time operation—it’s got the backing of corporate giants such as Infiniti and Microsoft.

Duolingo—One Person’s Experience

Fionna Agomuoh has written a very readable account of what it’s like to go through an entire Duolingo language course—in this case, French.  She used the app while commuting to work on the subway: “Before I started my morning commute study routine, I typically used Duolingo before bed. This routine wasn’t ideal because I’d often be racing the clock to finish my lessons before midnight so I could sleep, and when I was rushing, I found I wasn’t actually absorbing the information. Overall, I recommend studying in the morning.”  If you’re looking for a way to help you with a New Year’s resolution involving language learning, Duolingo is a nice option!

The New York Times’ Learning Network

If you’re interested in classroom resources based on the articles, essays, photos, videos and graphics published on, their Learning Network provides plenty to explore. Every school day since 1998, the Network has offered fresh classroom resources — from lesson plans and writing prompts to news quizzes, student contests and more. All features for students are free.

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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