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Creative Problem Solving (Part One)

What does creative problem solving have to do with the exam your prepping for? Probably not very much. What does it have to do with the next phase that this exam is preparing you for? Possibly quite a bit. The world is full of tough problems that require smart, passionate people who want to solve them. Along with that comes your creativity and problem solving, which might just lead you to see the problem/solution in a new and novel way. Let’s look at two ideas.

Go for a walk: This Stanford study in 2014 ( found that people show more creativity when going for a walk. The walkers showed more divergent thinking in particular, which is to say that they came up with more unique solutions than the non-walkers. Surprisingly, the environment had no impact on the creativity, which is to say that the results were not impacted by the fact that some were on a treadmill looking at a blank wall while others walked around Stanford’s beautiful campus. A word of caution is that walking did not have a positive effect for single, correct answers. If you don’t know how many ounces are in a pint, going for a walk will not make the answer appear in your brain.

Play an instrument: It ends up your mom was right about the importance of playing the piano jnodii6. Playing an instrument, especially as you become proficient at it, leads to increased volume and activity in the corpus collosum, which is the bridge between the left and right hemispheres of the brain. This increased activity allows messages to get across the brain faster and through more diverse routes. This can allow us to solve problems more efficiently and creatively.

Playing music can additionally develop executive function. Executive function is a series of interlinked tasks that include strategy building, planning, and attention to detail as well as requiring simultaneous awareness of both cognition and emotion.

Now if you can go and find a way to play an instrument while taking a walk you might just solve world poverty. The world would settle for your ideas on how to make it a better place.



All posts by Brad Brown

Habits and the Domino Effect

Check out this article about habits. Pretty interesting. The basic point is that we all have habits that we are trying to develop, but what most people don’t recognize is the domino effect. The domino effect relates to unintended consequences (or benefits). For example, decreased leisure time could be a goal, and with that goal would come increased productivity in some way. However, it is also true that with decreased leisure time comes (for most) decreased fat intake.

The domino effect: How to create a chain reaction of good habits


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The Key to Effective Learning




In 2005, the National Academy of Sciences reviewed everything we know about learning in a paper called How Students Learn. In this report, 600 pages of research culminate in a single word, which the NAS identifies as the key to effective learning: metacognition. Metacognition (or thinking about thinking) is the secret to and driving force behind all effective learning. If you want your students to learn as much as possible, then you want to maximize the amount of metacognition they’re doing. It’s a pretty simple equation.

Metacognition shows up in the flipped classroom model, where we let the students be the teachers. If they can teach the topic to another, then they really know what they are talking about. Even if they cannot teach the topic, they have been forced to think about what they know and how to explain it. This is such a funny thing for teachers as they are being told not to teach but rather to get out of the way.

Whether or not we are actually teachers, most of us both have roles in our lives where we both teach and where we learn. I think that many of us rely on old models, which is to say that when it’s time to teach that we talk more (lecture) and when it’s time to learn that we listen more. It seems that we have had it backwards all this time. Remember that a great education does not come from a teacher who thinks for you.

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Mastery Based Learning and My Hate for Statistics



I hate Statistics. Or at least Stats hates me.  What the heck is a p-value anyway?  Every time I took Statistics it seemed like it was going to be easy and before very long I was completely lost. And once you get lost in that horrid class finding your way back was not easy. It just seemed like one day I woke up and all the sudden an easy class was suddenly difficult.

The reality is that Statistics just builds on previously learned principles and concepts. As long as you have truly learned them, no problem. The minute that the class has moved on to the next concept and you have not mastered the previous one, you have a problem. My education was always based on a syllabus, and therefore time. Which is really inefficient as I think about it now. Many weeks, starting as far back as I can remember, there would be a topic or series of topics for a given class that I was already familiar with, and then I would be very bored. But then there would be other times where different material took more of my time than the class allowed. This is to say that on certain weeks I really had mastered the material very early in the week and in other classes or other weeks the week ended and the class had moved on but I had not yet mastered the material. I think this is a common occurrence for most students. Or if it weren’t then everyone would be a 4.0 student, right?

Enter mastery-based learning. With technology, we can start to learn based on mastery rather than based on a syllabus. When I have mastered a certain topic, I can move onto the next one. Sometimes I will be ahead of the class, other times I will be behind. It really does not matter. Think of how much time you (and I) have wasted in our educational careers because either it was too easy and we were bored or it was too difficult and we were lost. Technology can help with this and provide services that are engaging as well.

Any service meant to help with studying should include mastery-based learning. What is just as interesting (and more challenging) is how teachers will try to incorporate this into their classrooms. The natural thought process is that teachers should be up in front of the room lecturing, so how could we all be working at completely different levels of mastery? It seems like chaos. Perhaps the role of the teacher needs to change. Maybe the role of the teacher should be more providing some information to start the class, and then letting students do work while they received feedback on how each student was progressing. If someone gets stuck go help him or her. If the majority is stuck somewhere then stop the class and go over where the knowledge gaps seem to be. Seems like a more productive way to learn. And maybe fewer people would hate Statistics.

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Here are some quotes that I like.  Not an exhaustive collection by any means, but loosely based on our fears, dreams, limitations, intuitions, and some other important stuff.  Hope you like them.  Some don’t have names next to them because I don’t know who said it.  If you do let me know.

You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

Buckminster Fuller

Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.

Leo Tolstoy

It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.

C. S. Lewis

The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.

Albert Einstein

Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.

Margaret Mead

It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.

Charles Darwin

The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.

Elbert Hubbard

Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.

Robert F. Kennedy

Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.

Winston Churchill

One who fears failure limits his activities. Failure is only the opportunity to more intelligently begin again.

Henry Ford

The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.

Dale Carnegie

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.

Thomas A. Edison

A lot of people have gone further than they thought they could because someone else thought they could.

Zig Ziglar

Dream big by setting yourself seemingly impossible challenges. You will then have to catch up with them.

Richard Branson

A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.

No clue, but a good quote

I think entrepreneurship is our natural state – a big adult word that probably boils down to something much more obvious like playfulness.

Richard Branson

For those who think business exists to make a profit, I suggest they think again. Business makes a profit to exist. Surely it must exist for some higher, nobler purpose than that.

Ray Anderson, founder of Interface.

Einstein famously said that: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

Plato has said on the importance of desire that it: “Must drive the soul with a reigned-in craziness.”

“Dream. Seriously. Don’t betray your dreams for the sake of fitting in. Dreaming is one of humanities greatest gifts. It champions aspiration, spurs innovation, leads to change, and propels the world forward. DREAM BIG!”

Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.

TS Eliot

Business and life are all about taking risks – sometimes they work out and sometimes they don’t, but if you never take risks you’ll never get anywhere.

Life is short, break the rules. Forgive quickly, Kiss SLOWLY. Love truly. Laugh uncontrollably. And never regret ANYTHING that makes you smile.

Mark Twain

As Mark Twain pointed out: “You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.”

Albert Einstein said: “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift.”

Things which are different in order simply to be different are seldom better, but that which is made to be better is almost always different.

Entrepreneurship isn’t about selling things – it’s about finding innovative ways to improve people’s lives. –branson

“The only way to discover the limits of the possible is to go beyond them into the impossible.” – author and scientist Arthur C. Clarke.

Employ your time in improving yourself by other men’s writings, so that you shall gain easily what others have labored hard for.”


Do not fear mistakes.  You will know failure.  Continue to reach out.

Benjamin Franklin