What to Expect

Challenging the Current Education System

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”

The time to change and improve is now!

What can you expect from my Mathematics books?

I used the CAPS documents from the Department of Education to plan what goes into my books and when (which term).

1. Do it yourself

The work is set up in such a way that the learner is led to do the work, to see the patterns, to figure out the rule for himself and therefore to better his understanding of what he is doing. This helps him to tackle problems with more self-confidence.

Only by doing it himself, will the learner see more patterns, connect different parts of the work, and better his understanding, his skills and his ability to answer questions and solve problems.

I ask a lot of questions where learners must express themselves verbally. They must be able to explain what they just did and why. By explaining in his own words, the learner eliminates all possibilities of guesswork. He must think about what he did, structure his thoughts and write them in a sentence. He must also say what patterns or rules he noticed. This method of writing down the process, helps him to understand the work better.

2. What is my goal with my books?

My goal is to create a learner who

  • can think for himself
  • can ask questions
  • can do for himself
  • can express his thoughts in words
  • can tackle problems with self-confidence
  • can work autonomically
  • can see his mistakes, go back, think differently about them and correct it

3. Am I forcing Thinking Tools onto you?

No. The methods (including pictures) that I use in my book are aimed at helping the learner understand what he is doing.

When I use more than one method or more than one Thinking Map in a question, it is to help his brain capture the work.

Food for thought: Giving Thinking Tools a try is better than trying to remember everything by rote learning.

4. No teacher? No problem.

Although this work is not written to be done without the guidance of a teacher in the classroom, it is set up in such a way that the learner will be able to work on it independently if the teacher is ill or at home.

Each book comes with a memo book that contains all the answers.

5. Your book is cheap, but I don’t have money to print it out.

No problem. The learner can view the book on a device like a laptop or a tablet and he can write down the work on paper.

Informed teachers and parents choose Thinking Tools

Dr Cas Olivier explains how our brains work and why we should replace “explaining” with “Thinking Tools”:

The brain is not a photocopier machine

The brain’s memory on which the education system is relying is the brain’s worst faculty. Somehow it is wired to forget more than it can recall during tests and exams.

This memory is also not trustworthy. Information the student was able to recite before entering the exam room, disappears into thin air when it must be provided as an answer on the exam paper.

Defining learning as a linear input/output process does not do justice to the brain which consists of about 100 billion neurons with roughly 1 quadrillion — 1 million billion — connections known as synapses wiring these cells together.

Homo sapiens are destined to think, and thus all information on earth is created by human brains. It is general knowledge that the brain is a knowledge creator. This is acknowledged everywhere in the world, except in schools where learners’ brains are turned into knowledge duplicators.

What is ‘photocopier machine’ learning?

The brain does not have the ability or capacity to capture or photo-image all the pages of a textbook. To overcome this shortcoming the education systems offer the ‘summarising’ solution which consists of something like this:

  • The content of a chapter is summarised on a few pages and then further reduced to an A4 page.
  • The A4 page is reduced to an A5 page and that to crib note size.

This type of learning makes use of a very tiny structure in the brain called the hippocampus. Marks resulting from this way of using the brain can never reflect the student’s full potential as it is not aligned with the wiring of the brain.

How is the brain wired to think?

When the brain is provided with a word, for example, ‘tree,’ the nature of the brain is to go in autopilot mode and roam through billion neurons and synapses to find related concepts such as leaves, roots, shadow, water, rain, tarred road, holiday, etc. Always more and bigger.

Expecting students to summarise does not match the natural wiring of the brain.

The conflict between memory-based learning and assessment

Whilst the brain is trained to reduce information, assessment requires the brain to expand information to obtain more marks. It is not fair to expect a summary-fit brain to suddenly demonstrate expanding fitness during the exam. This is like preparing an athlete for a 100-meter race which changes the day of the competition when the athlete is required to jump over a horizontal bar.

This paves the way for a new definition for LEARNING which deviates from memorising and gravitates toward thinking.

Using the two frontal lobes of the brain instead

The two large frontal lobes are connected by the corpus callosum constitutes to constitute the integrated cognitive computer of the brain. When computing or thinking, the brain uses the billions of neurons and synapses networks in interconnected ways, for example, to:

  • Classify information into logical categories.
  • Determine cause and effect relationships between variables.
  • Compare and contrast information.
  • Determine sequence and order.
  • See analogies.
  • Discover processes and sequences.

When using the brain for the above purposes, the brain constructs and reconstructs answers to individual questions which are eventually packaged into meaningful units of knowledge and insight. Knowledge and insight gained in this way are stored in the long-term memory.

Thinking Tools are inborn abilities.

If the brain did not have inborn Thinking Tools, the human brain would never be able to classify information into logical categories, determine cause and effect, compare and contrast information, determine sequence and order, see analogies and discover processes and sequences.

Examples of Thinking Tools

To classify information, the brain has a Thinking Tool to analyse the bigger challenge into smaller chunks. While analysing a theme, the brain also has a Thinking Tool to seek, find and organise facts. The result of this kind of thinking results in a classification.

If the bigger challenge is a process and not a cluster of facts, the brain has a Thinking Tool to analyse or unpack processes instead of facts.
All of this is addressed in the Thinking Tools course for teachers.

How are Thinking Tools teaching and learning different?

Traditional teachers provide students with information that must be absorbed and learned. In the case of mathematics, sums must be repeated until the recipe is cemented in the brain. When analysing the results of this approach to maths, it is clear that the repetition process is not as successful as predicted.

Thinking Tools teachers, on the other hand, equip their students with Thinking Tools in the same way that they were equipped during their training. This empowers their students to take ownership of their thinking which enables them, for example, to analyse a theme or a sum themselves. During this process, students start detecting reoccurring steps, relations or patterns. This AHA or insight is then cemented in the student’s brain never to be forgotten again. This Fourth Industrial Revolution approach to learning replaces memorising recipes.

This takes time and will I be able to cover my curriculum in time?

Yes, it takes time to empower students to use Thinking Tools. As Thinking Tools are used new neural pathways are established in the brain, which means the brain develops, for example, the skill to analyse either facts or processes or both. This means that each next round of analyses will go faster than the previous ones. This enables teachers to cover the curriculum in time. 

There is, however, a timesaving factor: Since students discovered e.g., a process themselves, it is cemented in their memory and there is no reason to set time aside for review.

On the contrary, the memory of the brain is not trainable to remember longer and faster. This is the purpose of study methods and also the reason why they have never proved to be successful.

Thinking Tools is not a study method, it is redefining learning.

Thinking Tools are relevant for all curricula, grades, and subjects, as well as for Project- and Inquiry-based Learning.