A Mind for Numbers

A Mind for Numbers

How to Excel at Math and Science (even If You Flunked Algebra)

Book - 2014
Average Rating:
Rate this:
Penguin Putnam
The companion book to COURSERA®'s wildly popular massive open online course "Learning How to Learn"

Whether you are a student struggling to fulfill a math or science requirement, or you are embarking on a career change that requires a new skill set, A Mind for Numbers offers the tools you need to get a better grasp of that intimidating material. Engineering professor Barbara Oakley knows firsthand how it feels to struggle with math. She flunked her way through high school math and science courses, before enlisting in the army immediately after graduation. When she saw how her lack of mathematical and technical savvy severely limited her options—both to rise in the military and to explore other careers—she returned to school with a newfound determination to re-tool her brain to master the very subjects that had given her so much trouble throughout her entire life.
In A Mind for Numbers, Dr. Oakley lets us in on the secrets to learning effectively—secrets that even dedicated and successful students wish they’d known earlier. Contrary to popular belief, math requires creative, as well as analytical, thinking. Most people think that there’s only one way to do a problem, when in actuality, there are often a number of different solutions—you just need the creativity to see them. For example, there are more than three hundred different known proofs of the Pythagorean Theorem. In short, studying a problem in a laser-focused way until you reach a solution is not an effective way to learn. Rather, it involves taking the time to step away from a problem and allow the more relaxed and creative part of the brain to take over. The learning strategies in this book apply not only to math and science, but to any subject in which we struggle. We all have what it takes to excel in areas that don't seem to come naturally to us at first, and learning them does not have to be as painful as we might think!

Baker & Taylor
Offers tools, tips, and techniques to learning the creative and analytical thought processes that will lead to achievement in math and science.

& Taylor

An engineering professor who started out doing poorly in mathematical and technical subjects in school offers tools, tips and techniques to learning the creative and analytical thought processes that will lead to achievement in math and science. Original.

Publisher: New York : Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA), 2014
ISBN: 9780399165245
Branch Call Number: 501.9 OAKLE
Characteristics: xx, 316 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

Aug 26, 2016

Dr. Barbara Oakley really got through to me on the effectiveness of these learning techniques she discusses, seeing as she had some learning struggles of her own to overcome.
For those of you who don't get the "passing math and science when you've flunked algebra" aspect allow me to tell you a bit about Dr. Oakley. She had major problems with math (she was the self-described "queen of anti-math" when in public school), which initially affected her interest in science. She was a translator the military, and in order to get a promotion, she realized that she needed to master her math and science to become an engineer.
If you are interested, She also co-instructs an online course through Coursera with Dr. Terrence Sejnowski, called Learning How to Learn.

Feb 09, 2016

I do not know why this book is so well recommended by many academics. This book is about how to study, nothing to do with math and science. The concepts on how to study mentioned in this book are well known, such as relax, sleep. taking a break, etc. This book also borrows ideas from neuroscience. If your grades are good, you do not need to read this book. If your grades are bad, it is okay to read this book. But, all what you will read will likely be known to you already and you just merely don't apply them.

Dec 21, 2015

There are two important things to remember about this book.
1. This book is a giant pep talk.
2. The advice shared here is about how we learn.

The possibility of getting either in our high schools is slim.

Oct 26, 2015

Great book for learning effective study techniques and how to overcome procrastination. I use the Pomodoro method each time i study, and I find it extremely useful. This book is mainly written with students in mind, but I think it is suitable for anyone wanting to learn more about how the brain works in storing and processing new information.

Dec 27, 2014

An encouraging reminder of how much say we have in our own learning. Gives simple but powerful tips that you can (and should!) put into practice right away.

Dec 08, 2014

A really fantastic and amazing book. Prof. Oakley explains all, and I am not kidding about this! A colossal read on the subject on how to learn. While the author mentions math and science, it really covers the complete spectrum of learning how to learn. 20 starred book.

Nov 23, 2014

I wish this book would’ve come out when I was still young; I could’ve really used a book like this back then, through high school and undergraduate college. How sad that we’re never taught exactly how to learn in school, and are expected to just pick it up or study harder.

I learned about this book’s existence by taking the author’s free online course on Learning How to Learn at Coursera.org; she used much of this book’s principles for her course, and it got me interested in reading it for myself.

It’s a great self-help book on explaining how to study; Barbara Oakley not only explains the things that will help you study better, but also explains it in such a way that you get it. She would know; she used to hate math and science, and eschewed it until after her stint in the armed forces when her current career was going nowhere.

Don’t let the book title fool you; you can use what you learn here for any type of subject, including athletic activities like sports, and whether you’re still in school, a self-learner, or simply want to remember errands and grocery lists better without forgetting (in fact, that’s what the author implied when she advertised her book during the Coursera online course). It covers not only some of the best ways to study, but also how to memorize lists or concepts better, and how to avoid anxiety; one of the greatest strengths of this book is that there’s something for everybody (unlike books which are specifically tailored for memorizing, or procrastinating, or managing your time wisely).
There’s also short quotes in each chapter from various students and professors and what they used to try to learn better, so you can also glean from their respective experiences and apply them for your own benefit.

One thing I like about this book in particular, is that Barbara also covers a few chapters in the book on how procrastination works scientifically, as well as how to beat it; you can’t form a good book on how to learn better without covering a topic like that, since we all have subjects and things we hate to do, but must do.

If you like this book, you might also want to consider reading “Make It Stick” by Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III and Mark A. McDaniel; it’s also a recent book on learning based on scientific findings. However, I would personally read this book first, because it covers a broad range of topics, the concepts here are easily laid out, and easy to understand and apply. Highly recommended book.


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at GL

To Top