Aug 16

The pearls of AP Statistics 16

Here is a crazy idea: use tongue twisters in a Stats class.

Some of us are slow-thinkers; others have a blazing thought speed. They say Lev Landau was able to think about two problems at a time. The speed of signal transmission in the nervous system is a built-in property that is hard to change through training. However, switching from one mental tool to another can drastically improve the thought speed. Here is why.

There are two centers in our brain that are responsible for processing information: the auditory and the visual. The auditory center uses words and is therefore slow. Since much of information exchange between humans takes place through speech, the auditory center is vital despite its slowness. The visual center relies on images and other information structures that don’t require words. Obviously, when we think about a problem in geometry, we visualize it. But there are many abstract notions, especially in Math and Stats, which are difficult to put into a geometric shape. Yet the brain manages to process them and is very fast at that. That’s because abstract notions are handled by the visual center.

wake upWaking the visual center up is essential not only for increasing the thought speed but also for unleashing one’s abstract thinking. Some people, like Landau, automatically employ the visual center for all complex tasks and don’t even know how they do that. Others need a conscious effort to switch from one center to another (that's your humble servant). And there are some who use primarily the auditory center and have no idea how to turn on the visual one. Those who don’t use the visual center much or don’t use it at all are the ones who can gain the most from learning how to use it.

A brilliant schoolteacher Victor Shatalov from the city of Donetsk, Ukraine, has invented a host of teaching devices, which are too many to review here. Suffice it to say that he finishes a three-year high school program in one year. One of his recommendations is to start every class with tongue twisters. Even though a tongue twister is designed to improve pronouncing, because of the required speed it promotes the visual center and internal vision.


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