The Great Mental Models

28th May 2020

Cheery Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!

Books of the Week

The Great Mental Models Volume 1: General Thinking Concepts and Volume 2: Physics, Chemistry and Biology by Shane Parrish and Rhiannon Beaubien. by Shane Parrish and Rhiannon Beaubien.  There is intriguing evidence from neuroscience that our brains “reuse” patterns based on models to help us think creatively about ideas we are grappling with. Shane Parrish and Rhiannon Beaubien’s practically useful as well as fascinating books provide many examples of how models can be used to help us think in fresh ways. For example, we know that different systems, like a small pot of hot water nestled inside a larger pot of cold water, will tend towards reaching a thermal equilibrium.  As Mental Models Volume 2 notes: “What if we consider the equilibrium of two systems not between two containers of different temperature water, but two societies with different values?” What a neat way of thinking about societal differences!

As Parrish and Beaubien note: “You’ve got to have models… You may have noticed students who just try to remember and pound back what is remembered. Well, they fail in school and in life. You’ve got to hang experience on a latticework of models in your head.” Mental Models describes some of the best of these models. These are also good books for audio listening (Volume 1, Volume 2). (Two free audio books may be possible through this link.)

We’re also fans of Parrish’s Farnam Street Blog, Podcast, and Learning Community. Check them out!

Healthy Selfishness and Pathological Altruism

Psychologists Scott Barry Kaufman and Emanuel Jauk have published an intriguing paper: “Healthy Selfishness and Pathological Altruism: Measuring Two Paradoxical Forms of Selfishness.”  (These are topics near and dear to Barb’s past research.) Kaufman and Jauk’s paper presents scales for two forms of selfishness: healthy selfishness and pathological altruism. The scales display good reliability and validity with respect to related constructs. Importantly, validity analyses underpin the paradoxical nature of both constructs as they show that not all selfishness is necessarily bad, and not all altruism is necessarily good. This valuable paper highlights important, but often neglected, areas of social science.

Cold-Call Your Online Students

There is good research revealing that randomly cold-calling your students is beneficial for their learning and also helps improve their desire to interact in class.  Here’s a write-up the technique, which Professor Wendy Conway of Oakland Community College humorously calls the “Uniform Torture Method,” (from the  MichMATYC Conference.) Try it and we’ll bet you’ll like it!

Learning How to Learn in French! Apprendre comment apprendre 

For the many French-speakers among the vast Learning How to Learn audience, we want to point you to the fantastic French version of the course, Apprendre comment apprendre (ACA) : Des outils mentaux puissants qui vous aideront à maîtriser des sujets difficiles. This lovingly curated course brings in fresh information in French that helps keep you on your toes in the world of learning.  If your relatives, friends, or colleagues speak French, please point them towards this fantastic version!

The Size and Scope of Your Buddies Worldwide in Learning How to Learn

Nicole Charest, our co-instructor of Apprendre comment apprendre, has been kind enough to compile statistics on the size of the current English Learning How to Learn. We have thus far had over 3 million registered learners on all platforms and language versions of the course (roughly 3,200,000, to be more precise). There are LHTLers in virtually every country or independent entity in the world—some 236 national groups in all!  

Learners on the current English version of Learning How to Learn*

  • Africa (57 countries & autonomous regions)     162,104 registered learners
  • America (54)  834,618
  • Antarctic (1)   1
  • Asia (51)         613,445
  • Europe (50)       565,332
  • Oceania (21)  49,528

*note, this count misses learners from the old platform (504,000 registered learners) and the other language versions (Spanish, Spanish native-speaking, Portuguese, Chinese, French, Arabic, and Hungarian)  of LHTL (400,000 registered learners). 

In fact, we seem to be missing learners from only the following areas:

  • Wallis and Futuna
  • Western Sahara
  • Niue
  • British Indian Ocean Territory
  • Cocos (Keeling) Islands
  • South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
  • Tokelau
  • Bouvet Island
  • Tuvalu
  • Falkland Islands (Malvinas)
  • Saint Helena
  • Svalbard and Jan Mayen
  • Norfolk Island 

If you happen to know anyone from those places, please ask them to join the course!  (And also ask them to invite Barb to visit once COVID is past! 🙂 )

A Mind for Numbers a worldwide best-seller

You might not be surprised to learn that A Mind for Numbers, our supplemental course textbook, has become an international best-seller, with nearly a million copies sold worldwide.  (Look towards the bottom of the webpage here to see many of the different language versions. You can check, for example, the list of best sellers for Nash Format, a top Ukrainian publisher, to see that their version of A Mind for Numbers is one of their best-sellers.)

An Inspiring Ten-Year-Old Completes Learning How to Learn!

Proud father Francesco Urbano writes: “I am delighted to share with you the achievement of my daughter Daniela, 10 years old and student at the fifth year of the elementary school in Italy, very curious of the MOOCs that I attend, she took and completed, in complete autonomy and with great determination, the Learning How to Learn Course on Coursera, gaining a certificate. She enjoyed the course and had a great learning experience, and I want to thank you for this.”

Daniela, our greatest congratulations for your initiative and inspiration for all of us!

Online Courses Are Booming

The New York Times catches on to the booming popularity of MOOCs and online courses.

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

View more Cheery Friday e-mails >