Limitless Mind: Learn, Lead, and Live Without Borders
By Jo Boaler
HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers; hardcover; $26.99
Dr. Jo Boaler is a Professor of Mathematics Education at Stanford University, and the faculty director of youcubed, an education resource that has reached over 230 million students. She is the author of the first MOOC on mathematics teaching and learning, as well as nine mathematic books and numerous research articles.
Boaler’s work has appeared in numerous outlets including the New York Times and The Atlantic, and was recently named by the BBC as one of eight educators changing the face of education.
In her new book, Limitless Mind, Boaler reveals the new science of learning that will unlock the way we see ourselves and our true potential.
This is in contrast to the accepted wisdom that the range of our intellectual abilities were limited by our genetics. This presumption guided our understanding of learning and our life’s potential. Even the simple idea that we are either good or bad at a skill such as math has been ingrained from a young age.
Boaler draws on a series of studies involving thousands of students in the United States and England, years of primary research on the most effective way to help people change from low to high achievers, and backed by the latest neurological science, she offers six keys to unlocking learning potential:
- The brain is not fixed and is capable of leaning and growing regardless of age.
- Mistakes and challenges increase and strengthen our neural pathways ad accelerate our ability to understand and learn.
- Our own beliefs change the potential of what we can achieve.
- Neural pathways and learning are optimized when considering ideas with an approach of multiplicity.
- Speed of thinking is not a measure of aptitude; learning is optimized when we approach ideas and life with creativity and flexibility.
- Collaboration and connection on any skill or discipline is a higly effective tool for learning.
Those six keys are about empowerment, in addition to learning more powerfully. They teach you how to know you’re good enough, that failure is an opportunity, and that life can be lived differently.
Boaler writes, “Learning about the positive benefits of mistakes provides a different perspective on failure. This is an important part of becoming unlocked and living a limitless life. I myself have made a transition from being locked – fearing failure and doubting myself – to being unlocked. It is a process that has to be worked out continually.
“As an academic, I experience a lot of failure. To keep our youcubed center at Stanford running, supporting staff salaries and providing free materials for teachers and parents, we have to apply for lots of grants – most of which are rejected. I also have to submit our papers to journals, where rejection is part of the process. If they are not rejected, they are subject to reviewers’ comments. I have had reviewers dismiss my work entirely, saying that it is ‘not research, just a story.’ It is nearly impossible to keep going as an academic without viewing ‘failure’ as an opportunity to improve. A wise professor named Paul Black, my PhD advisor, once said to me: ‘Whenever you send a paper to a journal, have in mind the next journal you will send it to when the paper is rejected.’ I have used his advice a number of times.
“Taking a limitless approach – particularly when embracing challenge and struggle – also helps when we encounter difficult people. In today’s world of social media, it seems impossible to make a statement about anything without getting pushback, some of it aggressive. I have experienced extreme and aggressive pushback many times, and I now know that it is important to stay strong in those moments and to look for something positive. Instead of dismissing a challenge or beating yourself up, think, ‘I will take something from this situation and use it to improve.'”
Limitless Mind will go a long way to transform how we think about education and learning, giving us the freedom to see ourselves and the world differently.