The following books are excellent sources of documented research, insight, and referrals for further reading.
The Language Instinct
by Steven Pinker
Available in paperback from Harper Perennial
Professor and director of the Center of Cognitive Neuroscience at MIT, Pinker won wide acclaim with the publication of
this book. As appealing to the general public as it was to the scientific thinkers, this book had a long-time residency
on the NY Times Best Seller list.
Pinker makes his case for the genetic basis for language, arguing quite credibly that humans are hard-wired for language
and grammar. Dubious or not, the reader will find much fascinating detail; and ultimately probably agree that Pinker
has successfully made his case.
I read this book at its first publication in 1994 and immediately saw its relevancy to mathematics acquisistion and learning
in general. Always the scientists, Pinker avoids almost any generalizations not immediately supported by data.
So he sidesteps the idea that mathematics itself can be viewed as a language and that the processes of language development
could be directed at mathematics acquisition ... if math were to be taught properly.
More to the point, the book also solidified my idea that language is probably the most difficult thing to learn, far
more difficult in structure and rules than those of medicine or flying a rocketship. But language is taught in a manner
consonant with how our brains are wired to learn, tapping directly into the intuitive processes; whereas medicine and piloting
rocketships are taught in a manner totally contrary to everything that makes sense. It was after reading this book that
my method of instruction began re-developing.
Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind: Why Intelligence Increases When Your Think Less
available in paperback from Harper Perennial (December 8, 1999)
Originally printed in 1997, this book was considered groundbreaking for its exposure of the fallacies it exposed regarding
intellectual and artistic development. More shocking, however, is that all Claxton really did in his book was show how
much research had been ignored by contemporary thinkers. Some of the research occurred much early than the 1950's.
For example, there is a small section on the impossibility of a committee to produce almost anything of quality. Has
that stopped every corporation on the planet from having regular brainstorming sessions?
I was tickled by the number of Nobel Prize winners and famous author and artists who asserted that their work was not
the result of thinking.
Read the book. It's a fast, easy read, with compellig logic and solid research.
Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious
by Gerd Gigenrenzer
Available in paperback from Penguin
Gigenrenzer, director of the Max Planck Institute, starts his book with a remarkable assertion: Intuitive thinking
will beat out data-based reasoning in the majority of time-constrained decision-making situations. The evidence he presents
comes from pure research and has led to ground-breaking lines of thought.
Written for the lay audience, the book is simple, clear, and hard to put down. It should also change your way of
The Power of Intuition: How to Use Your Gut Feelings to Make Better Decisions at Work
by Gary Klein
Available in paperback from Crown Business
Original Title: Intuition at Work
Like many of its kind, this book is aimed at the business world. Based on research, and with
an impressive history of having its techniques used by the military, emergency response teams, medical institutions, this
book will seem to both echo and flesh out the ideas presented in Gut Feelings.
Despite its being placed solidly in the world of business, the ideas are universal; and clear thinkers
can easily see their translation into the world of education ... or almost anywhere else. Although a bit dry, the book
is filled with direct references to research that will be interesting to the reader who wants to see what is going on out
Thinking, Fast and Slow
by Daniel Kahneman
Available in hardbound from Farrar, Straus and Giroux
This book has already won awards and achieved mass appeal, a surprising achievement for a work that
is as dense in substance as this book is.
Essentially an examination of the role of intuition in thinking and an exploration of the value and
dangers of intuitive thinking, the book is surprising, convincing, enjoyable, and provocative.
In a roundabout way, Nobel Prize Winner Kahneman offers the idea that everything we do is either
directly or indirectly the consequence of intutive thinking. For myself, this was hardly surprising; but the logical
basis by which this is supported is enjoyable to read. I say "roundabout" because Kahneman gives the impression of tiptoeing
here -- and not for lack of good cause; as he is moving through a veritable philosophic minefield. (see my page on Free
The most recent of the books recommended here, it would be worthwhile to read some of the earlier
books first, just to add perspective to what Kahneman has to offer.