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How to improve thinking skills?

  1. Aug 19, 2013 #1
    Hi guys:

    Just wondering, are there ways that you can improve your thinking skills hence enhancing your problem solving and learning speed and ability?

    I would love to become more intelligent, I don't know how much natural talent I have but I would like to (and I am doing) my best to become a more competent mathematician/engineer

    Last edited: Aug 19, 2013
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 19, 2013 #2
    1) Read, read, read, read, and.... some more reading. Read in your downtime, if you're bored and want to watch TV, choose instead to read something mentally stimulating (i.e. PF!)
    2)Cut back on TV. Read a college Phyiscs textbook while not worry about the mathematics (yet)
    3)Fall in love with the beauty of mathematics - it helps a lot before taking algebra

    I could go on and on, but these are some of the steps I took because I was a high school drop out 8 years ago - 2 years ago I started from scratch at a community college, lived by the above tips, and now I'm a mechanical engineering major at Oklahoma State. I have so much more to learn, so I continue following my tips on a daily basis.
  4. Aug 19, 2013 #3
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  5. Aug 19, 2013 #4
    When learning a particular concept whether that be a scientific or mathematical one or simply a philosophical one, always take that idea and apply it to the situation's/phenomena's you endure or observe in your daily life. For example, I remember one day when I was waiting for the bus, I began observing a series of ants, and decided to analyze their motion for particular mathematical patterns (yes, I was fairly BORED). Although, this may not be the most favourable example, it demonstrates quite lucidly my earlier point. Always try to take the knowledge you gain (whether that be in a classroom or independtly), and apply it to ordinary occurrences in daily life.

    I also entirely agree with liubare in stressing the importance of reading.
  6. Aug 19, 2013 #5
    Simple, solve more problems. Put yourself in unfamiliar situations and work your way out.
  7. Aug 19, 2013 #6


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  8. Aug 19, 2013 #7


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    All of my advice on this kind of issue is stuff that you likely already know...

    You start by taking care of yourself. To me this means:
    - getting sufficient, quality sleep
    - eating well (reasonable portions, eliminate the junk, half or more of what goes in your mouth should be a real vegetable or fruit)
    - getting good exercise (cardio and strength training)
    - fostering healthy relationships (avoid emotional vampires or people who stress you out, spend time with constructive people who have similar goals and desires)
    - making good use of down time to recharge
    - remember that willpower is an expendable resource, avoid your temptations
    When you're healthy and well-rested it's surprising how much more mental energy you have.

    On top of that I agree with what's been said. Your mind is plastic. The more you use it, the more powerful it will get. You have to find problems that both challenge you and that you enjoy working on and then get to work on them.
  9. Aug 19, 2013 #8
    Wow! lots of replies! I'm so happy about that!!

    I try to read whenever i can, but being in college can only allow me to read that much beforing having sore eyes.

    I admit I do play vid games, like alot. I will try reading and solving problems instead of doing that.

    things is, I can often figure out a hard problem given sufficient time. But I know people who can just solve them in like 10-20 minutes.

    While I know there are such things as "genius". I refuse to accept that one cannot improve his thinking skills by practicing.

    And that's what I'm gonna do from now on, hoorahh.
  10. Aug 19, 2013 #9
    You can learn how to memorize and get much better in academics, but I believe that ultimately nothing can make a person smarter once you reach your ceiling. Some people are simply smarter than others. The important thing is to max your abilities and even overachieve. in the end it is intelligence plus motivation and confidence.

    This would be like picking an average Joe from the street and make him practice golf since childhood with the best instructors in the world. The truth is that he may never be Tiger Woods or even a professional golfer without God given talent.
  11. Aug 20, 2013 #10

    Stephen Tashi

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    The "working problems" type of thinking is usually duplicating how other skilled people think about problems that are already known to have solutions. This is different than creative thinking. Creative thinking may or may not interest you, or perhaps you don't need any instruction in it.

    The only interesting material I ever saw on creative thinking was a TV series on "De Bono's Thinking Course". It was simple and useful. There is a book by the same title that I have not read. Like most self improvement techniques, I'm sure there is some publisher's hype to the advertising for it. However, whenever I have seen this course discussed on math and science sites, the reactions of most posters completely confirmed some of De Bono's observations. He points out that intellectual people tend to be "critical thinkers" rather than creative ones. When presented with a general topic, they tend to form opinions quickly and concentrate on flaws and exceptions to statements rather than positive or interesting aspects. So he advocates a "P-M-I" approach to thinking about a topic. Consider all the aspects of it -those that are "plus" , those that are "minus" and those that are "interesting".
  12. Aug 20, 2013 #11
    When did we arrive at the conclusion that talent is given by god? I must have missed that paper.
  13. Aug 20, 2013 #12
    Exploring topics outside of mathematics and science such as art, or music can also be helpful. Seek out interesting new projects and you will probably find it feels good to turn on that other hemisphere once in awhile :)
  14. Aug 20, 2013 #13
    I've looked into this extensively, and it's even part of why I went back to school for mathematics. I've looked a lot of the supposed brain training programs and so forth, which have not been proven effective. The things that I *know* work are - reading, learning mathematics, learning languages (has been shown to prevent alzheimers), and exercise.

    Whenever I've seen a neuroscientist ask about the most effective "brain training" they invariably mention the last one. I hear a groan - I know there is every excuse in the book not to do it(no time, too tired, no discipline, bad knees, too hot outside, too cold outside), but there's no getting around it. People sitting around on their asses doing luminosity are wasting their time. To improve mentally you have *got* to have the physical end of it taken care of.

    It's kind of a disappointing answer. We would like to just sort of sit there and do some sort of mental activity and "work out our brain," but that's only part of the picture. The brain is a physical thing. It needs oxygen and blood. Learn, read, do math, run (or something).

    -Dave K
  15. Aug 20, 2013 #14
    this is referred to as BPI,
    brain performance index,
    this quote below is from lumosity

    " What is BPI?

    Brain Performance Index (BPI) is a measure of cognitive performance.

    Memory, Attention, Speed, Flexibility, Problem Solving. "

    i recommend it.
  16. Aug 20, 2013 #15

    so...exercising helps?
  17. Aug 20, 2013 #16
  18. Aug 20, 2013 #17

    Dude, it is a figure of speech!
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