How to Learn
Begin at the beginning, and do not allow yourself to gratify mere idle curiosity by dipping into the book, here and there. This would very likely lead to your throwing it aside, with the remark ‘This is much too hard for me!’, and thus losing the chance of adding a very large item to your stock of mental delights . . .
Don’t begin any fresh Chapter, or Section, until you are certain that you thoroughly understand the whole book up to that point and that you have worked, correctly, most if not all of the examples which have been set . . . Otherwise, you will find your state of puzzlement gets worse and worse as you proceed ‘till you give up the whole thing in utter disgust.
When you come to a passage you don’t understand, read it again: if you still don’t understand it, read it again: if you fail, even after three readings, very likely your brain is getting a little tired. In that case, put the book away, and take to other occupations, and next day, when you come to it fresh, you will very likely find that it is quite easy.
If possible, find some genial friend, who will read the book along with you, and will talk over the difficulties with you. Talking is a wonderful smoother-over of difficulties. When I come upon anything — in Logic or in any other hard subject — that entirely puzzles me, I find it a capital plan to talk it over, aloud, even when I am all alone. One can explain things so clearly to one’s self! And then you know, one is so patient with one’s self: one never gets irritated at one’s own stupidity!
Excerpt from essay titled “How to Learn” by Lewis Carrol, found in A Random Walk in Science. Image via Stadshem.