Complete Name A Mind For Numbers: How To Excel at Math and Science
Author Barbara Oakley
Publication year 2014
Genre Self-help book
Pages 269
Amazon link Mind-Numbers-Science-Flunked-Algebra-ebook
Goodreads rating 4.23 / 5 (6007 ratings)
Amazon rating 4.6 / 5 (646 ratings)
Google likes 93% liked this book

Why should I care about this book

This book is for you if:  You want to understand how the learning process practically works and how you can take advantage of this knowledge to boost your productivity while studying. The author explains through metaphors and examples how your mind processes new information and how this information is solidified in your memory. It is not only for who want to excel in Math and Science, it is a book for anyone who craves to maximize his studying time and to enhance his learning patterns.


This book is not for you if:  You are looking for a book which explains scientific or mathematical concepts or you need a scientific, rigorous and detailed explanation of how your mind processes information. 

What is the question the book answers?

Why is not true that you need be particularly smart or special in any way to be able to master mathematical and scientific concepts.


The author believes that everyone can understand math and science, the problem is how to approach these subjects with a productive and positive mentality in order to get the best out of your studying sessions. You just need to know how your mind chunks information and how to properly foster the mental connections. Then you can rely on this knowledge to harness your natural abilities to learn faster, better and more efficiently in a shorter period of time. The book explains some methods and strategies that will guide you through your journey to become a better learner and to become finally able to understand complicated mathematical concepts in a fun and prolific way.

Concepts to embrace and remember

Focus and Diffuse Modes

Do you know that you are learning each time you play video games, eat, sleep or simply relax? Not only are you still learning, but these activities are as important as your actual studying sessions to properly memorize and embrace any concept or idea.


You enter the Focus Mode each time you open a book and concentrate on a specific subject in order to understand a particular notion. You may think this as the 'active' part of the process. Then you just need to take a break, relax and empty your mind to enter the second phase of the process, the Diffuse Mode. While you are in the Diffuse Mode your brain is actually still working on the problem you studied earlier. That is why, when you later come back to the same problem, you may be able to find a solution much faster and easier than before, because your brain has already embraced the problem and was working on the solution. So remember, when you are fighting with a challenging problem, taking a break could be the best solution.

Start early on your assignment

Once you acknowledge that you must switch between focus and diffuse mode to learn properly, you should agree that, in order to maximize your understanding of a problem, you must study frequently and keep your sessions short and intense. Your brain works better if you give him the opportunity and the time to sharpen the information and memorize it in the most efficient way possible. That is a good news, you do not need to study hours and hours each time; you just need to focus on your work (turn off your phone, close the door, hide all the distractions) for a small amount of time and then let your brain do his job while you are in the relaxing diffuse mode.

Recall instead of rereading

Rereading again and again the same pages doesn't work. That's because you are not actively working on the problem, you are just memorizing the same words over and over again with the support of the book. Then, when you need that knowledge, you cannot remember anything, without your book you feel lost and empty. Instead, you should try to recall your knowledge. Every once in a while you should close the book and try to remember and explain to yourself or someone else what you have read. You will find that some aspects are not as clear in your memory as you thought. No problem, take the book, focus on your shortfalls and recall again.

The power of habits

Habits free our mind from certain activities. We become so used to a specific action that we do not need to actively focus on it, we leave our unconscious, habitual mental pattern to do the job for us. In that way, we could have more free space available to work on a more complicated new problem. To create a new habit there are four steps: Cue, some actions that spark your habit reaction; Routine, specific rituals to sharpen your brain; Reward, expecting something after hard work to prime your brain; Belief, know you can become better at whatever you are working on.

Write a list of key tasks

This is a strategy that so many successful people use to optimize their productivity, I also personally use it, and I can guarantee you that works perfectly. Each evening before going to bed give yourself some time to write down a list of the most important to-do tasks that you need to accomplish the next day. You can simply write a checklist on a piece of paper. Then the next day you already know where to focus your effort in order to be as productive and efficient as possible. This method helps you also in transform distant deadlines into daily ones, less effort in a long period of time to maximize your knowledge.

Eat your frogs first thing in the morining

 Use metaphors and analogies

You are not a robot. You can't pretend to remember thousands of pages, numbers, and words as they are without a good strategy to help you solidify that specific knowledge in your mind. Have you ever wondered why you always remember a coarse song and you can't do the same with a mathematical concept? The two main ingredients to imprint an idea in your mind are analogies and repetition. You can associate a difficult problem with a song, an image or a funny story. By doing that you are taking advantages of the mental patterns of the brain that are more used to memorize something exceptional and forget everything unuseful and boring.

Value of learning on your own

When you really want to learn something because you have a passion for it you do not think that something is difficult or boring, you just go for it. You know that as you practice you are getting better and better and eventually you will be able to perform a task that everyone taught you wouldn't be able to. I personally love the idea of learning on my own, I am always craving to learn something new. Because remember, no one can take your knowledge from you.


If you understand that idea, you should try in every possible situation try to reach for the solution on your own. Then don't be afraid of asking teachers for clarifications if you still can't find the solution on your own. Don't be discouraged by anyone, be persistent, check your work and improve. You should also find a small group of people to study with. Your peers will correct you and you will be more productive together, everyone will fill the gaps of others.

You are the easiest person to fool

Good and Bad

Good: The book is not a tedious school book about how math and calculus work but it is a collection of principles and little secrets about how to enjoy learning and how to maximize your time and understand math and science faster and better. It introduces you to some great ideas that will make your learning process utterly surefire.


Bad: The book is really dense, it could make someone feels overwhelmed at the point of not being able to take advantage of all her useful techniques and ideas. Maybe is intentional, but the author uses to repeat some concept with different words throughout the whole book. Sometimes it feels a bit childish in her explanation, she does not need a full scientific research to explain and prove a concept as opposed to many others book I have read about similar topics use to do.

Final considerations

I personally recommend you this book. It is full of very helpful ideas that in one way or another will for sure leave you with something new and useful. As the author says in the notes, this book is not meant for students, it is meant for every individual who wants to learn how to learn, to be more productive and to gain some great advice on how to study better and faster.