Why don’t students like school?” asked Daniel Willingham, a cognitive scientist. School could and should be a place that cultivates curiosity, of discovery, and confidence, but too often, it fails to do these things. He decided to look into the mental processes that occur as people acquire information and gain expertise and parse out how learning occurs and how to best guide students through the process.

One of the topics that Willingham investigates is “Why is it so hard for students to understand abstract ideas?” In this chapter, he discusses how to teach students broad, guiding principles but also how to help them apply those principles to specific sitations. For effective learning, he says, students need to master both the abstract and the concrete. To further illustrate the concepts that Willingham presents, my MAET team, Los Triángulos (which includes myself, Du Bui and Denise Crudup), created a fun YouTube video using Legos!

Another chapter asks “What is the secret to getting students to think like real scientists, mathematicians and historians?” In this section, Willingham demonstrates the differences between novices and experts, and discusses the steps that occur as a person gains expertise. Los Triángulos made a second video that summarizes his ideas using, you guessed it, more Legos!


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