Mind, Brain And Education

Mind, Brain And Education
1. Spaced Repetition
2. Retrieval Practice

Tool: Test
Not to assess what students know, but to reinforce it.
Memory is like a storage tank, a test as a kind of dipstick that measure how much information we’ve put in there.

But that’s not how the brain works.

Every time we pull up a memory, we make it stronger and more lasting, so that testing doesn’t just measure, it changes learning.

Simply reading over materials to be learnt, or even taking notes and making outlines, as many homework assignments require, doesn’t have this effect.

Language learner: 80% retained.
Science: 50% retained.

Self-quizzing (focus less on input of knowledge by passive reading, focus more on output by calling out that same information from brain.)

Cognitive disfluency:
Tough topic, recall better.
Interleaved assignment: mix up different kinds of problems instead of grouping by type.

Why French excel in math ?

Mathematics and quantitative finance, France

Since 1990, there have been 22 winners of the Fields Medal, widely regarded as the Nobel Prize of mathematics. Thirteen came from just two countries, Russia and France. Russia has more winners (seven), but more than twice the population, so the honours go to France, with six winners.

Cédric Villani, the 2010 Fields Medallist, cited national character. “Maths is an abstract way of looking at the world, which fits well with the French mentality. We apply algebra to everything.” Elite institutions help too. France’s brightest school leavers progress to the grandes écoles, which traditionally educate top scientists, administrators and presidents. For maths, you want Monsieur Villani’s alma mater, the École Normale Supérieure (ENS). All 10 French Fields Medallists learnt there. At ENS, no teacher can stay longer than 10 years. Instead of ancient dons, students get tutors at the forefront of mathematics. Many try, but only 40 mathematicians a year enter the ENS.

The French have applied their maths genius to the money markets too. The Financial Times business schools rankings suggest France leads the world in producing “financial engineering” experts, with six institutions in the top 10 masters courses in finance. France can thus claim to dominate quantitative finance, the highly mathematical specialism involved in about half of all financial trades.

They should thank Michel Crouhy. In 1986, at the École des Hautes Études Commerciales (EHESS) in Paris, he devised the world’s first masters course in financial engineering. “The business school students didn’t have good enough maths, so I said ‘Let’s take only maths graduates, engineers. I won’t have to spend forever explaining the equations.’ It worked; the EHESS still offers the world’s best finance masters course, according to the Financial Times.

“Americans told me they wanted to start a course like ours but they weren’t allowed,” says Crouhy. “Because US MBA programmes were so strong, the universities worried a finance masters would compete with their MBA and destroy the MBA’s franchise.” America’s hesitation seems to have cost them.

“Turn-off” School Math

“…There’s a long history of high caliber mathematicians finding their experiences with school mathematics alienating or irrelevant. “
Read here:

In Récoltes et Semailles Fields Medalist Alexander Grothendieck describes an experience of the type that Alain Connes mentions:

I can still recall the first “mathematics essay” (math test, or Composition Mathématique) , and that the teacher gave it a bad mark. It was to be a proof of “three cases in which triangles were congruent.” My proof wasn’t the official one in the textbook he followed religiously. All the same, I already knew that my proof was neither more nor less convincing than the one in the book, and that it was in accord with the traditional spirit of “gliding this figure over that one.” It was self-evident that this man was unable or unwilling to think for himself in judging the worth of a train of reasoning. He needed to lean on some authority, that of a book which he held in his hand. It must have made quite an impression on me that I can now recall it so clearly.