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Brain Hacking 202: Help Students Make Sense Out Of Nonsense

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We make sense out of the world around us by forming connections in our brains. The more of these connections (information chunks) we have, the easier it is for our neurons to form new connections and understandings. Some concepts presented to young minds in schools are so new that they struggle with the initial understanding.

It is important for parents and teachers to be able to explain that this lack of understanding is NOT A RESULT OF BEING DUMB, which is a common stigma facing learners of all ages. Rather, the information does not make sense, because the needed neural network, the "chunk," hasn't had the time to fully form yet. 

We also need to tell our students that if they keep practicing, recalling, and using the information they will indeed grow the necessary neural structures. If they don't give up on learning tough concepts too quickly and we don't give up on them they will MAKE SENSE OUT OF NONSENSE.


This was Infographic #4 in the BRAIN-BASED LEARNING SERIES. Please check out Infographic #1 to learn how to Leverage Sleep to Maximize Learning, Infographic #2 to get Strategies on How to Fight Procrastination, and Infographic #3 to maximize Memory Retention.

Much of the information is inspired by what I learned from a Massive Online Open Course or MOOC through Coursera and University of California, San Diego named "Learning How To Learn" developed by Dr. Barbara Oakley. I strongly encourage you to watch her TEDx Oakland University Talk on "Learning How To Learn." In my infographics, I combine what I learn with personal experience as a middle school and high school teacher to make K-12 learning accessible to all students.

Thanks for reading/looking and I hope you enjoyed this post. Please share it with other educators and especially young learners who can greatly benefit from this information. They might even like it. I will feature the fifth infographic: "Brain Hacking 301: Becoming Smarter by Growth Hacking Your Mental Library" in my next NEWSLETTER, so please SIGN UP if you would like to receive some tips on how to help your students improve comprehension of difficult and abstract concepts.

And Remember: You have the power to change the world. Use it often.

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I founded Focus 2 Achieve to provide innovative classroom tools that empower teachers and help students achieve more success. In my first life, I am a husband, a father, and a teacher. In my second life, I spend time discovering what "really works" aka "best practices" in education, problem-solving, and creating products for teachers and students. I recently wrote a book titled "Crush School: Every Student's Guide To Killing It In The Classroom." It is a book designed for Students that uses brain research and brain based learning strategies to help student become better learners. The book can be used by Teachers to help students learn more effectively, and Parents to help their children become more aware of how they learn. 


I have a BS in Earth and Environmental Sciences and an MA in Teaching. I teach high school Chemistry and Principles of Engineering and my professional interests focus on discovering and learning how the human mind learns and acquires lasting knowledge and skills, so that I can help my (and other) students learn more effectively and achieve greater academic success.


I am also a fan of the Jedi order (and use DA FORCE frequently), ninjas (both masked and unmasked), and the superhero in all of us. Oh, and I am on a Quest to Change the World, because I can. I believe we all can.

  • Jon Harper /  @Jonharper70bd
    Jon Harper / @Jonharper70bd Sunday, 13 March 2016

    Oskar I really like the visual layout of this series you are sharing. It makes it easier for me to digest. It is amazing how we expect kids and even ourselves to retain new information or concepts when we haven't even formed the first part of a "chunk". I see many kids who are unable to "chunk" and I think it is because their brains are very stressed and their cortisol levels are off the charts. Once again, great piece. I'm going to be sad when this series ends.

  • Oskar Cymerman | @focus2achieve
    Oskar Cymerman | @focus2achieve Monday, 14 March 2016

    Thanks Jon. There are so many outside factors that can affect learning. Stress is definitely detrimental. The key is time. Given enough processing time, our brains and our kids' brains can learn anything. The time part is sometimes difficult depending on the circumstances...
    I don't want to make you sad, so I have no choice but to make this last forever ;-)

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