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This Guy Learned Linear Algebra in Ten Days, And You Can Too

At MIT you can take a ton of science classes online. And, in true MIT fashion, someone just did them all at an extraordinary speed

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At MIT, you can take a ton of science classes online. And, in true MIT fashion, Scott Young just did them all at an extraordinary speed. (He can probably solve a Rubiks Cube super fast too). He took four years of computers science courses—33 courses total—in less than a year. That’s one course every 10 days or so. Linear Algebra, Chemistry, Physics, Calculus, and more.

Young explains how why he did it:

I’ve always been excited by the prospect of learning faster. Being good at things matters. Expertise and mastery give you the career capital to earn more money and enjoy lifestyle perks. If being good is the goal, learning is how you get there.

How he did it, though, is more interesting:

During the yearlong pursuit, I perfected a method for peeling those layers of deep understanding faster. I’ve since used it on topics in math, biology, physics, economics and engineering. With just a few modifications, it also works well for practical skills such as programming, design or languages.

Here’s the basic structure of the method:

1. Coverage
2. Practice
3. Insight

Coverage means “get a general sense of what you need to learn.” Practice means practice. Insight means getting to the point where you know what you’re missing. “Often when you can identify precisely what you don’t understand, that gives you the tools to fill the gap,” Young writes. If that sounds familiar to you, that’s because Richard Feynman came up with a similar technique:

1. Get a piece of paper
2. Write at the top the idea or process you want to understand
3. Explain the idea, as if you were teaching it to someone else

The post goes on with tricks for remembering procedures, formulas, ideas, checking yourself, and the rest. One might ask whether  Young actually remembers what he learned or simply did very well on the tests. If you learn more quickly, does that mean you forget what you’ve learned more quickly, as well?

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About Rose Eveleth
Rose Eveleth

Rose Eveleth is a writer for Smart News and a producer/designer/ science writer/ animator based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Scientific American, Story Collider, TED-Ed and OnEarth.

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