Efficiency with The Feynman Technique

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“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.”

–Richard Feynman.

This technique was developed by the great scientist and professor Richard Feynman.

The Feynman Technique

Feynman, a Nobel Laureate in physics, showed NASA a beautiful but straightforward experiment without using words.

He took an O ring and put it in a cup of ice water.

The O ring represented the Challenger’s space shuttle, and the ice water described extreme conditions at temperatures never tested.

A few degrees were the difference between a safe space flight and its disaster.

Feynman exposed the human error caused by a government agency with too many bosses and not enough employees, trying to save too much in all the wrong places.

He was a science hero to many, and in his later years, he distanced himself from the government agencies he was connected with.

This simple technique invented by Feynman, or his nickname The Great Explainer, is for anyone who wants to learn more quickly and efficiently.

This Feynman technique will help people better understand a concept in any subject matter they learn.

If you already understand it well and are studying for an exam, you can use this technique to test your understanding and challenge your assumptions. 

The best way to know your material is to teach it to someone else or pretend to teach it.

The four steps to the Feynman Technique:

1.     Take a piece of paper and write the concept’s name at the top.

2.    Explain the concept using simple and easy language. Write it out as if you were teaching it to someone. Then, work through different examples, dissecting them from all angles to make sense to you and others.

3.     Identify problem areas, then return to your resources for further review. For example, work back through your notes or watch videos on the subtopics and then go back to writing it out and using new examples until you fully grasp the areas you’re having trouble with.

4.     Narrow down any complicated terms and challenge yourself to simplify them. Use the complicated language and write it out in simple terms that make sense to you, are easy to remember, and are easily teachable to others. Don’t just make it in simple words you understand but write it to teach a kid the concept(s). Kids are good at asking the question, “Why?” Which will then force you to challenge your assumptions. For example, if you’re working on a formula in chemistry, a kid might ask why we need this formula, why this formula works this way, etc.

This technique helps you review your knowledge about a concept to see where your strengths and weaknesses lay within that concept.

It can help you simplify your strengths and identify and work on your weaknesses.

The Feynman technique helps save you a lot of time and lets you figure out what you need to work on more.

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” – Albert Einstein.

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Dean Mathers


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