When was the last time you unsuccessfully tried to understand a concept?
“I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something.” – Richard Feynman
For me, it was the day before I learned the Feynman method. I tried to understand some algorithms during my calculus classes. I did the math and sometimes I got the right answer. But I did not understand the underlying meaning. I could use the algorithms but I did not know when and why. Around the same time one of my professors mentioned Richard Feynman during class. It was a recommendation to look him up. I did. I found a role-model and a great learning method.
This man was probably the greatest mind after Einstein in the 20th century. A Nobel prize proofs that he was very intelligent but more importantly he was great explainer. You can watch some of his lectures on YouTube and you will see what I mean by great explainer. I will write an own article about Richard Feynman, but for now lets take a look at his technique.
How to use the Feynman method
Choose one concept you want to understand
Try or pretend to explain the concept to somebody who has never heard anything of the concept. (I pretend to teach a little child.)
If you get stuck, read again your reference material
Go over it again. Simplify your language. Explain or replace complicated words. Use metaphors and analogies
Keep the concept as small as possible! Build bigger concepts with smaller ones
At the latest when you are finished explain the concept to somebody else. If that person understands the concept, you did it right.
The great thing about the method is, it is so simple but at the same time so powerful. Everybody can use it; you just need a piece of paper and a pencil. You can explain everything with it; abstract concepts as well as concrete ones. If you do it right, you can explain them to children.
I used the method for my math problems. It worked great and years after can still explain the algorithms; how and when to use them. Since then I use the method all the time with great success.
Call on Action:
Try the Feynman method for at least 5 concepts!