Some of the most important skills you will be asked to use in your classes and in the university are your problem solving skills. Some of our problem solving skills are inherent. I think this is worth celebrating. Our minds are able to size things up in an instant to help us make decisions. We are actually built and programmed that way and it is amazing. Gladwell didn’t discover these facts but he does us a service in illuminating them, in taking them out of the specialized, scientific community and into the public sphere where we all have access to the ideas.

In particular Gladwell points to success in people who are “very good at what they do and all of whom owe their success, at least in part, to the steps they have taken to shape and manage and educate their unconscious reactions” (16). One of the ways that we problem solve is through association. In chapter three Gladwell says “We make connections much more quickly between pairs of ideas that are already related in our minds than we do between pairs of ideas that are unfamiliar to us” (77). We have discussed here how those associations can be problematic because they are subject to our experiences and our biases but what about when they are useful to us? What does it take to be a good problem solver?

In the previous post many of you discussed how you associated math with being difficult. More so, many of you associated your own evaluation of yourself based on what a teacher told you or led you to believe about yourself. Surely you will bring some of those associations with you but also you have the opportunity to makes new ones. If pairing is a way of synthesizing information together, how do we learn to play with it a little bit? When we break some of our associative powers apart and also when we rebuild new pairing skills, we learn something. Below is a link to a song that does just that–makes associations with some pairs of things. What if we changed the lyrics to the song to reflect new pairings?

What are some things you associate together in your learning? What if you made a list and then looked at new possible associations? For example what do you pair with reading, writing, math, history, dorm rooms, cafeterias, college? If math is scary, difficult or boring, what if we instead began to pair it with words like challenging, rewarding or exciting? Can you think of examples from your own life?