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InquilineKea comments on The Best Textbooks on Every Subject - Less Wrong

167 Post author: lukeprog 16 January 2011 08:30AM

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Comment author: InquilineKea 17 January 2011 10:38:44AM *  5 points [-]

It really depends on your learning style, and whether you learn best through examples=>generalizations or generalizations=>examples.

Similarly, some people may learn faster from a non-rigorous approach (and fill in the gaps later), while others may learn faster from a more rigorous approach. Some people might stare at a text for hours, but might be able to motivate themselves to learn the material much faster if they had some concrete examples first (using the Internet as a supplementary resource can help in that). I actually find it easier to learn molecular cell biology through Wikipedia articles than through textbooks, because Wikipedia articles often contain more of the information that's more emotionally significant to many people (even if not epistemically significant).

For example, I really do feel that I would have learned physics and math much faster if I learned them through computer simulations (proofs could be done later - I tend to just stare at proofs if they're presented first). I'm an inductive learner, not a deductive learner, and I tend to stare at texts that are overly deductive (part of it owes to my severe inattentive ADD, but maybe some non-ADDers are in the same boat as I am there)

In general, I find lectures extremely inefficient, unless there is space for significant amounts of one-to-one feedback, either through insanely small classes or a teacher who allows you to be their pet. Since these rarely happen in college, I generally find learning from textbooks more efficient. Podcasts/video lectures are often VERY inefficient ways to learn since you can read MUCH faster than you can listen, and it's much more of a hassle to repeat a part you don't quite understand.

Here's a quote I really like:

"Similarly, no one has been able to confirm any certain limits to the speed with which man can learn. Schools and universities have usually been organized as if to suggest that all students learn at about the same rather plodding and regular speed. But, whenever the actual rates at which different people learn have been tested, nothing has been found to justify such an organization. Not only do individuals learn at vastly different speeds and in different ways, but man seems capable of astonishing feats of rapid learning when the attendant circumstances are favorable. It seems that, in customary educational settings, one habitually uses only a tiny fraction of one's learning capacities." Encyclopedia Britannica, Philosophy of Education

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That being said, here's a list of books I wish I had studied from instead of the standard textbooks: http://www.amazon.com/gp/richpub/syltguides/fullview/R2BKS9X5I8D9Y/ref=cm_sylt_byauthor_title_full_1

Also, Razib Khan has collected some pretty amazing books (you can find them on http://www.gnxp.com).