Learning To Learn: Intuition Isn't Optional

My learning progress skyrocketed after adopting a new standard: Intuition Isn't Optional. Imagine a chef who follows a new recipe to the letter. No matter how it looks, no matter the reviews the recipe has, if the dish doesn't taste good we know something is wrong. A sense of taste is the ultimate cooking tool. […]

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://betterexplained.com/articles/intuition-isnt-optional/

Your explanations are really good!!


Thanks for another Intuitively and well explained topic.

The article has elicited an epiphany of sorts on various levels to dig deep into some bad habits acquired in recent years and work to absolve them asap.

Thanks again.

I have recently (within the past few years) felt a need to learn math again, and take it seriously this time. The older I get, the more appreciation I feel for a strong background in math. Unfortunately, I didn’t take math seriously through school. It was a means to an end: graduation.

Since my background is Computer Science, I’m beginning my math explorations with CS topics, such as Category Theory, Lambda Calculus, and Type Theory. Eventually, I’d like my interest to grow into other topics of math.

Anyway, I just want to say that I really, really appreciate your site and posts for making me feel like I wasn’t an idiot for not grasping math like the other classmates. I certainly recall those A-ha moments, and they were brilliant! I want more of them, and now I realize it’s okay if I didn’t have them before. It doesn’t mean I’m a failure; it means I just didn’t “get it” yet, but I can, and I will.


Thanks for another good post. It reminds me of a good book I’m reading about learning languages in a much more effective and emotional way:.

Here’s a link to a Google books preview of some of Chapter 2. The author’s principles described there to defeat forgetting languages overlap with your aim to get a visual and emotional connection to math concepts:

I rather enjoyed going through Pragmatic Thinking and Learning by Andy Hunt. Does a superb job of going through the “science” of “learning how to learn”. Specifically the information regarding the dreyfus model of skill acquisition.

Being cognizant of your learning, like in your checklist above, is definitely a practice a lot of people could benefit from.

What I find interesting is how somewhat non-connected topics and domains can lead us upward on our journey to mastery. Often times I struggle to find the right questions to ask until I’ve come into a completely unrelated subject or situation.

Good stuff!

I often wondered what would a school be like in 1000 A.D. The teachers probably didn’t lecture like the professors today - there were much fewer pieces of knowledge, there’s no rush to finish topics before a school year, and the population wasn’t as ridiculous as today.

Since some point in history, schools became more like factories where employees with particular skills. Efficiency became the top priority, not effectiveness. After a generation, a lot of teachers had no idea why do the stuff they teach matter either. That’s when the vicious cycle started.

Now we started to realize this again, because building and envisioning a better tomorrow requires a deeper understanding than what most people have now. We have to start educating ourselves, despite going to school for 16 years.

Or is that what school is really about, teaching you some skills and knowledge and you’re on your own to figure out how to really understand things? I don’t know.

@Josh: Thanks for the reference, I need to visit that book again. Just being aware that we can improve our learning with a few strategies or checklists was eye-opening for me. And yep, I’ve definitely found that different domains can give insights on how to approach new subjects. It’d be absurd to attempt to cook without tasting, and it’s now similarly strange for me to learn math without trying to experience the idea.

@Bill: Glad you liked it, and thanks for the reference. Language learning is another area where we put in so much effort but seem to get such poor results in practice using traditional methods.

@Erica: It’s a neat thought experiment. I similarly realized that for thousands of years, pre-literate societies passed down knowledge via stories, metaphors, analogies, etc. There is clearly a place for formal and symbolic knowledge, but it complements (and doesn’t replace) the need for an intuitive understanding that actually lasts.

Yep, it seems education has evolved to be easily tested and graded, which has its benefits, but measurement efficiency shouldn’t be the only goal. My main takeaway is that we have to take learning into our own hands, using class tests as one guidepost. If I can’t pass the tests, I know I still have more to learn, but if I don’t have an Aha! moment, there’s more to learn as well.

Thanks Nick, happy to hear this resonated. I think basic empathy is a huge component of teaching: we need to feel comfortable learning, and if we don’t get something, we need to know we can revisit/explain it in other ways without being ashamed or intimidated. I’m only now finally understanding concepts I was introduced to in school decades ago.

Three words- I LOVE THIS!
Thanks a ton kalid.

I would like to share the following ancient Indian methods:
Knowledge acquisition: https://ramprasadk.wordpress.com/2015/01/01/gjyaana-dhaara-learning-understanding-realization/
Discourse analysis technique : https://ramprasadk.wordpress.com/2015/02/26/sadhlinga-thathparya-nirnayam/

My experience at school–UK, 1950s, matches this, from Neil Postman:
“Children enter school as question marks and leave as periods.”

Thanks John & Siri.

Raghuraman, glad it helped – I’m also in the process of constantly examining and untangling what I consider learning to be.

Great quote Barry!

I love you - You have done what I have been wanting to do except that I was lazy … and you did it way better. Great stuff.

Sir, your website is indeed worth coming across. I liked the Site Philosophy page. It inspires to learn more and share.
Thanks for posting such beautiful learnable articles. (I am inspired by many bloggers such as you that I have started blogging, sharing my learnings in world of technology. Please do visit http://iotenthu.com during your leisure and provide your comments and thoughts. Thanks :slight_smile: )