How to Learn Faster with the Feynman Technique (Example Included)

How to Learn Faster with the Feynman Technique (Example Included)

October 18, 2019 100 By Stanley Isaacs


There’s this pretty well
known quote that gets thrown around a lot and it’s often
attributed to Albert Einstein and it goes, Now whether or not Einstein was the person who actually said this, let’s
be real he probably wasn’t, it’s still really insightful
and reversing it reveals a pretty powerful piece of study advice. Now this idea is something
I touched on briefly back in my video summary of
the Study Less, Study Smart lecture by Doctor Marty
Lubdell, because in that lecture he talked about one of the
effective study techniques being to teach what you’re
learning to someone else. So in this video, I want to
dig deeper into that idea and share with you a step-by-step
process for doing this, which has been called
the Feynman Technique. Now this technique is
named after the physicist who was, in his own
right, a great scientist. In fact, back in 1965, he won
a Nobel Prize for his work in quantum electrodynamics,
which is something I had to practice saying a
couple of different times, and he contributed to science
in a number of different ways, including in the development
of what are called Feynman diagrams, which
are basically graphical representations of the math behind how subatomic particles work. But in addition to
being a great scientist, he was also a great teacher
and a great explainer. And in fact, one of his nicknames
was “The Great Explainer,” because he was able to
boil down incredibly complex concepts and put
them in simple language that other people could understand. And that’s why he’s one
of those great scientists who is also known as a very good teacher. And in fact, even in his own
learning, Feynman was famous for tirelessly working through
equations until the concept he was wrangling with was
intuitively easy to understand, in his mind. So that’s why this technique
is named after him, but you don’t have to be a
physicists or you don’t have to be working on math or
science problems to use this technique, because
explaining a concept works to improve your understanding
of that concept in basically an area, be it history or be it math, or be it web development. It doesn’t matter, and it also works for multiple different purposes. If you’re shaky on a concept
and you want to quickly improve your understanding,
you can use it. But if you already have
a pretty confident grasp of a subject, and say you’ve
got a test coming up soon, you can also use it to
test your understanding and challenge your assumptions. As Feynman himself said, The ultimate way to ensure
that you actually understand all the little nitty-gritty
details of a concept in head is to explain it to someone else, or at least to pretend you’re doing so. And that is the crux of
the Feynman technique. So, let’s get into it. It’s a process of four
steps and the first step is to simply get out a
piece of paper and write the name of the technique down at the top. And in the example I filmed
here, we’re gonna use the Pythagorean Theorem
because it is simple and it won’t get in the
way of the actual steps we’re going to go through. Step two is to explain
the concept and to do it in simple, plain English, or French, or really whatever
language you happen to speak. But the idea here is to
do it in a way that’s easy to understand as if you
were teaching someone else. And don’t just settle with
defining the concept either. Also work through examples
and make sure you’re able to use the concept in practice, as well. For step three, identify any of the areas that you’re shaky on
after your explanation or identify areas that you got stuck on that halted your explanation and go back to the source material
or go back to your notes or work through examples
until your understanding of these subareas is just as solid as all the other areas. And finally, step four is
to look at your explanation and try to identify any
areas where you’ve resorted to using technical terms
of convoluted language and then challenge yourself
to break down those terms and explain them in simplified,
easy to understand words. Remember, the key here is simplicity. The act of explaining a
topic as if you were teaching it to somebody who
didn’t have the same base assumptions and base
knowledge that you have is the ultimate test of your
own knowledge in that subject. And that’s pretty much
it, that’s all there is to the Feynman technique. Now using this tecnhique
is incredibly helpful because it, number one,
helps you to quickly overview the concept and see where
your knowledge is solid, but number two, it helps
you to instantly pinpoint the areas where you’re shaky and where you need to do extra work. And that makes this
technique a great first step in reviewing a concept
because it’s very efficient and it helps you waste less time. I did want to give you guys
one extra suggestion though, and it relates to how you frame your mind going into step four. Instead of just thinking
how can I make this simple, how can I put it in plain
English, also think, how would I explain this to a kid? Why? Well besides asking questions like, “Can I have another Oreo,” or “Can I go watch Dragonball Z?” A kid’s gonna ask, “Why does that work?” And that’s gonna help
challenge your assumptions. For instance, going back
to our Pythagorean Theorem example, maybe you know the formula, but a kid would ask you
why does that formula work? Why does the Pythagorean
Theorem hold as a rule for all right triangles? And yeah, maybe you
understand that intuitively, maybe you could bust out
the proof by rearrangement, but maybe you can’t. Maybe you’ve always looked at the formula and taken it at face value, in which case, you have some more learning to do. Now speaking of the Pythagorean Theorem, maybe that was a bit
too simple of an example for you and you’d like
to see this technique applied to something
more complex or something that has nothing to do with math at all. If that’s you, in the companion
article for this video, I’ve included a couple
of different examples. One going through Bayes’
Rule, which is a concept and probability theory in statistics, and one going over the CSS
Box Model, which is related to web development and not
related to math, at all, that you can check out. So if you want to see those,
you can click the card on the screen right now to
get over to the article, or you could find the link
down in the description below. Beyond that, if you enjoyed this video and found it helpful,
definitely give it a like to support this channel and
if you have addition tips or ways that you use this
technique personally, I would love to hear from you
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