↑ comment by DirectedEvolution (AllAmericanBreakfast) ·
2021-06-09T18:14:55.716Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
Good thoughts. I agree that having a convenient practical application is very nice. Programming is lovely, because even a complete novice can make things that feel interesting to them with just a few pieces of basic knowledge.
By contrast, there's a fair bit of precursor knowledge required to figure out how to apply, say, differential equations to a biological modeling problem. Even though chemistry is in theory practical, the danger, regulation, and expense of setting up a laboratory to mess around in makes practical projects a less appealing way to learn (though it's perhaps counterbalanced by other factors like the hands-on aspect).
The problem I'm focusing on here is less about the difficulty of wrapping your head around a concept and ultimately committing them to memory, and more about motivating yourself to keep on trying.
For example, if you're reading a math textbook, you might find it difficult to understand. That's one problem. But you might also find it relatively easy to understand, yet find yourself getting distracted, losing focus, feeling stressed, or just not feeling like studying it.
My theory here is that in those cases, it's common for people to think that the reason they're feeling that way is that it's "too hard," or that they're "not smart enough." My guess is that for many, the reason is that math is a Jenga Tower topic [LW · GW] and they haven't spent enough time establishing a comfort zone with the basics.
They could, in theory, keep pressing forward, just reviewing old concepts when those old concepts are explicitly referenced in the new material. But that may produce two kinds of experiences: an experience of "I can't believe I've forgotten this already," and an experience of "I don't understand this new stuff," neither of which is pleasant.
As an alternative, if students can press through some new material until they get tired, and then just "swim around," reviewing old material, sort of basking in the experience of what they've just learned, they might find their motivation returning. They start to have two different experiences: an experience of "wow, I've learned a lot already!" and "because of what I've already learned, this new stuff is making pretty good sense!"
If we were just robots who could mechanically force ourselves to do what's optimal for memory-building, then maybe this would be an inefficient approach. But if we think about our studies as having a twin purpose of building memories and building motivation, then this starts to look more attractive.Replies from: selueen
↑ comment by Selueen (selueen) ·
2021-06-09T18:45:56.986Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
I understand your point, and I for the most part agree. It is important to understand the basics.Replies from: AllAmericanBreakfast
What I was trying to say is.. If you did not get the basics from your first attempt to learn those, maybe try to approach them differently.
Look for a different textbook, ask someone who is not your current teacher, maybe look for popular explanation (if you are compltetly lost), or for more technical one (if original was not detailed enough), etc etc.
Try to learn the basics, but switch the approaches if you are stuck.
I feel like it might help with motivation too, as it should be more exciting than plain repetition.