Kids have far more homework do to now than we ever did when we were growing up. It is big problem – kids today have a huge amount of homework. My sons have between 30 minutes and 90 minutes of homework per night, even though they are only in grade school and middle school.
You will have heard the horror stories about high school. It is common for kids in high school to have 3+ hours of homework per night, especially if they are in honors classes.
Frankly, I do not want my kids doing 3+ hours of homework (although they should do some homework). But on the other hand, we want them to get into decent schools when they get to college, and that will lead to a decent job, yada yada. So we need a way to do the same amount of work in less time.
Studying the traditional way takes a long time, and it is difficult for your child to determine if they really know the material using traditional study methods. This is not good enough. We need a way for kids to understand their assignments faster, and verify they can accurately do the work for tests.
It turns out this is entirely possible. Your kids can learn their homework more deeply, retain the information better, and do it all in less time. It is called the Feynman Technique, and Scott Young created the definitive outline on how adults can use it.
Scott Young is an amazing guy. He is a guy who went through an entire MIT computer science degree courses in just one year. He did 4 years of MIT classes – one of the top technical schools in the world – in just one year. Astonishing!
We talk a ton about effort here, and a growth mindset. A growth mindset is where you believe that effort and working hard will allow you to understand anything. Scott’s amazing results show what is possible with a growth mindset.
BUT, keep in mind that being motivated to learn, and actually learning are not the same. We need both motivation and techniques to be successful.
But let’s get back to the example of Scott Young and finishing MIT in only one year–There is no way to learn this much information and do this much work with normal studying techniques. It is just not possible. To learn this incredible amount of difficult material in such a short time, Scott had to:
- Use a repeatable method to understand difficult material quickly
- Verify he knew the material well enough to ace the tests.
Scott has a way to learn more quickly, deeply, and verify he knew the information – it’s called “The Feynman Technique”.
We are going to modify the Feynman Technique a bit so we can use it with our younger kids.
The “Feynman Technique” itself is pretty simple. It involves pretending you are teaching someone else what you are trying to learn, and then creating easy to understand analogies that cement the idea in your mind. It is really simple to understand how to do it, but incredibly powerful to use.
Why is it called the Feynman technique? It’s named after Richard Feynman, who won the Nobel prize for physics. Honestly, winning the Nobel prize was one of the least impressive things about him.
He was known by the other top physicists as being able to figure out problems nobody else could. Then, he was known as one of the greatest teachers of physics. These two incredible qualities are linked by the technique he used to learn new ideas and topics.
Whenever Feynman was faced with some new idea he didn’t understand, he would pretend he was teaching it to someone else. This forced him to identify the problem, find the important issues, pinpoint errors he was making, and then find a way to explain it simply and easily.
Feynman used this technique on himself – and propelled himself to a Nobel prize even though his IQ was only measured to be 125. He used this same technique to teach others – and become a legendary teacher of ideas.
So what is the Feynman Technique and how can your kids use it when they are doing their own studying?
It’s simple: Make your kids teach you their homework. Have your kids teach you what is going to be on their upcoming test.
Do this early in the evening, before they actually do their homework problems. Doing the teaching early makes the kids learn the material very well – so they can do the homework faster.
Then, because they are using words, drawing pictures, doing some work on paper, it gets ingrained in their memory for the tests later.
You don’t have to sit with them doing homework. You will know they have a solid grasp of the material – and they will too. If they are having difficulties, they will get it right before getting stuck in the middle of homework.
What if they make mistakes when they are teaching you their homework? Ha! Great! Use these mistakes to reinforce the growth mindset in your kids – where they respond to difficult problems with grit and determination to solve the problem.
The mistakes point out places where your kid needs to learn the material more deeply, and you can use them to foster a growth mindset.
If they make a mistake, say “I can tell you are putting a lot of effort into explaining this to me. Let’s go back to the book and see what it says to do here – We both need to understand this better”.
This script praises them for the effort they are putting into this task – and it “assumes” they can learn nearly anything with some effort.
If they make mistakes, look back to the book and correct the mistake right away.
Here are the basic steps for doing the Feynman Technique at home with your kids:
- Let them know they need to explain it to you like you do not understand it at all
- Have them first tell you what the idea/goal is in very simple words
- For a math problem, Say “ok, what do I do first?”
- For other topics say, “What do I need to know?”
- Let them explain the material/steps
- If they make a mistake, praise their effort for teaching you, and go back to the book to find the correct technique, answer, or idea
- Once they explain it in full and correctly, ask if there are any analogies they can think up to “help me remember it more easily”.
These steps work extremely well with the new common core math. The techniques used in common core math are different than the techniques taught years ago, but are pretty easy to pick up.
Try it just a few times, and your kids will learn the Feynman Technique. They will discover on their own all the power of explaining and teaching new material. They will discover the power of analogies in remembering.
The Feynman technique is incredibly powerful for learning material quickly. It is even better for retaining the material longer.
After a few weeks of doing this with the kids, let them know they have been learning a new study technique – and tell them about it. Then, have the kids use the technique as their go-to method of studying and learning – just completely bypass the traditional method of studying
Using the Feynman Technique is a way to reclaim time for your kids to do what they want!
Have you ever done anything like this with your kids? Let us know!