On Learning habits

I’m sure I’m not alone in doing this.

Something catches my attention, & I want to learn more about it.
I immediately jump to the resources that seem to appeal to me.
I try to do it.
I fail.
I give up.
Ad infinitum.

I think there’s a word for it: dilettante. A pejorative.

Occasionally, something sticks with me long enough that I learn the basics well enough that they become habits. “know enough to be dangerous”.

On a quest now to figure out, mid-life, what motivates me to want to learn something new, and how to learn about it so it sticks.

Learning to type

My son, all of 8 years old, has started learning to type.  He’s figuring out what the home row means, & how his fingers don’t have to move all that distance to type just one letter, that he can do it with both hands, and things are not as complicated as the jumbled letters on the keyboard.  Sure, it confuses the bejesus out of him, but he keeps going on.

What’s the point of this post? Who knows, I just found it fascinating that age is just a number when it comes to learning. Kids probably learn much faster than than we give them credit for.

Learning anew

How much I hated the rote learning of formulas, especially when it came to trigonometry & calculus!

For one, I didn’t understand why it was remotely useful for those of us who’d taken up accounting / commerce as our primary learning area (no, we couldn’t do double degrees – one was bad enough!) Worse still, was the (now apparent) lack of understanding of some teachers themselves, in so far as being unable to explicitly tie the things we were learning to something in the visible world.
There was neither the intrinsic motivation to learn, nor did it seem relevant or important to just get on with it, & get an intuition for it.

There may have been a few of my fellow students who innately understood it in relation to their technical interests, but I strongly suspect they cared about as much as I did, which was very little.

A couple of weeks ago, Rasmus Baath, a researcher, tweeted a link to a 100+ year old Calculus text book, which he followed up by tweeting that his one post that went viral was a book on maths, not cats! I was curious why that may have been so, & spent a little time looking for the pdf of the book that is now clearly out of copyright, & therefore freely available.

Two pages in, & I was hooked. I mean, how could you not be, when the book is titled: “Being a very simple-est introduction to those beautiful methods of reckoning which are generally called by the terrifying names of the differential calculus and the integral calculus by the RFS”.

The quote on the next page simply states: “What one fool can do, another can” (Ancient Simian proverb)

The prologue is even more relevant: “To deliver you from the preliminary terrors, which chokes off most (kids) from even attempting to learn how to calculate”, with a lucid explanations about the dreadful symbols for differentiating & integrating!

I’ve now spent at least a good few hours of my time learning about the fascinating teaching style of the author, a man named Silvanus Thompson! I know he’d have gotten an incredible amount of needling from the boys he’d have taught (if my classmates were any reflection of the cruelty reserved for teachers). I’m grateful that he took the time to write as he has, & that the book is still available.  I know it is, because I bought a used copy off one of my favourite online bookseller.


My 10 year old taught me to do somersaults in the pool today. She was chuffed I could do it after drinking the pool a few times 🙂
And then she taught me how to do back-flips.  I learnt that too. Much harder than the somersaults. I’m sore, and tired. And pleased. And very happy.

She was a good teacher. I may have been an okay student. Should ask her when she wakes up in the morning.

Don’t Go Back to School: How to Fuel the Internal Engine of Learning [Article]

Maria Popova had a very interesting post recently, on education. Quoting Zack Booth Simpson:

“The best education you can get is just talking with people who are smart…you can get that for the cost of lunch.”