Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Improving observation for better problem solving skill

I was thinking about why some people are good or bad at research/art of problem solving. It may have to do with observations which one makes. When you attempt again and again on daily basis, the random observations simply becomes less important than the observation which actually lead to insights. All important observations are related and gets consolidated just like completing a jigsaw puzzle. So trying every day to think about a problem, helps in gaining insight.

Another possibility could to practice to keep on mind in state of tranquility (much less random noise). This will also enhance the relevant observations. Meditation - practice of shutting of all your senses to the extent possible (that is why possibly, for meditation one closes eyes, sits down at one place, no music) and simply observing of what goes in the mind without trying to control it, or simply letting mind watch whatever it want e.g. your breathing, removes the noise in mind. Your observation clarity becomes better. You can see what is normally not visible.

I have found that every student or person who has come in my contact has different ability to observe acquired in earlier period. Thus they have a limitation in their ability to solve the problem, unless they further enhance their observation skill.

One possibility, is practicing the meditation as described above and see if they can push their limits.

It seems that this limitations get created due to learning from interactions with people in surroundings since childhood. Parents (one of the two who is having dominant influence on the kid) transfers this ability as well as limitation. Even siblings will have different abilities depending on which parents has dominant influence.

So, now case study where thought limitation is pushed further by meditation (consequently, less no of days of repeated attempts in gaining insight), need to be observed to verify the above hypothesis.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Steps in writing a paper or thesis

For anything you write - report, paper, thesis, we essetially are trying to answer questions which come to ones mind in natural progression. Each para, section, chapter has a purpose and must be an answer to a question. All the questions must emanate from fundamental question which has been the driving force behind the writing.

When writing a technical document, it is important to list the questions which are you answering. Put them in natural progression order. This allows one to write effectively. The questions can be grouped together chapter, section, para wise.

One can break writing into four steps. First - make an outline consisting of chapters, section and subsection titles, write the questions grouped under them for clarity. Try to arrange them in a sequence in which a reader can effectively appreciate your writeup.

Second step - take one section at a time; whatever comes to your head which you want to write, put it in the doc. You need not write explicitl the question being answered, but it should become evident to reader.

Step three - Organise the sentences in sequence keeping effective appreciation by reader in mind. You may have to move sentences around. You will find repetitions coming together. These need to be edited leading to removal of repetition.

During organisation, you will find that somethings are missing. Add the required text.

Fourth step - Take care singular, plural form of verbs, 'a', 'an" and 'the' and punctuation problems.

Repeat second to fourth steps to improve your manuscript for clarity.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Experience with Aakash Coaching in Kanpur

As usual due to pressure from kids and family, aakash coaching was joined by my daughter. She went through two year of classroom coaching in her XI and XII class. She could not score well and decided to drop a year and decided to join Aakash coaching again. This year also, she could not make it. Based on my observations, I could figure out what happens in the coaching. Put a bit of game theory in your reasoning and it becomes very clear.

The coaching institutes need to make money and they are there to make money and not improve the students' ability so that they have higher probability of qualifying the exams. In case a institute has 200 students and all of them qualify, does it make a difference in thier earning. Probably not. The expected profit maximizes at some value of x% of successful students. This x is about 10%. The choice of x is such that the demand for coaching is maintained. Making it 100% requires much more effort and much less incremental gain.

So normally, what happens, the coaching institutes focus on top 10% and analyses their answers to find why they are giving those answers. They adapt their interactions only on this basis. Consequently, if your kid is not in top 5%, the chances of his success falls drastically. The larger the batch size, the drastic will be the fall. While, all students are capable to qualify but the remedial efforts for them needs more efforts and they are simply left. I am not comfortable with this business mindset of coaching centers. My observation is on the basis of Aakash Coaching in Kanpur. It seems some coachings like super-30, keep this x as 100% and achieve much higher success rate (almost 100%).

Another bad thing which I felt is done in coaching, is to tell students to prepare only for certain stuff which is expected to lead to better score. So, they leave some topics and chapter. While, each students should be directed to study the stuff where he is weaker, thus making him ready for worst case scenario.

Also, a myth is propagated among students that all students are not equally capable. So if 5 to 10% percent are doing well in practice exams, then the others do'nt bother the instructors by making more efforts and then bothering them.

This amazing ecosystems is somehow gets created in the coaching, may be unknowingly, thus large number of students end up in considering themselves incapable or do not perform upto their capability.

In my opinion, DLP with practice examination series may be a good option, unless you are in top 5-10% of coaching class. Only thing to be fixed is to find someone who can study how your kid has arrived at the solution and identify the problem in the concepts and fix them up with appropriate advice.

Alternatively, find a coaching institute where your kid is in top 5% and where he is encouraged to continuously improve. Going into coaching center where already there is large crowd, reduces your chances unless your are in top 5%.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

How to prepare for entrance examination?

One of the question which I get from the stufents is about how to prepare for entrance examinations. So decided to put down my thoughts on this.

In entrance examinations, the outcome simply depends on how many correct answers you have given. The correct answers depend on your memory i.e., whether you can memorize the stuff, or whether you understand the concept. Most of the examinations need both skills.

A student should only bother about maximization of the performance. In order to ensure that you can maximize, it important to equally emphasize the entire syllabus. You should be ready for any kinf of question distribution in the paper. Key principle for preparation is to study those topics more which you understand/remembet less. A simple technique could be what is given in next para. Itvbecomes possible due to availability of large number of older questions paper and questions banks.

First of all, get the questions papers and questions banks from last few years. Now, start solving the questions. If you remember/understand and can give the correct answer, move to next question. In case you cannot, go the the book or other reference material and read at least the section completely related to the question. If you can give the answer now, you have added to your memory or understanding. By the time, you finish few question papers, you must have revised quite a good stuff which you were not remembering/understanding well. The method ensures that you do spend your time judiciously on refreshing your memory/understanding of the portions where you need to. Whatever you already remember/understand is skipped saving you critical time.

Basically you are strengthening your memory/understanding of your weaker spots. This leads to more uniform learning and your chances of getting success in the examinations is far higher by spending much shorter time in preparation. The more you do, the better you become. Only initial few questions papers will be tough as at that time you will be ironing out all your deficiencies. Later by practice you can build speed.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The art of nonlinear reading - How to read research notes/papers/books?

Reading a text can be linear - you start reading from page 1 and go to 2, 3, and so on till you finish the text. Novels, Stories etc. are read in this fashion. The sequence does matter as they represent the evolution with time.

When we read a paper, book or notes given by a student, our objective is to understand what the text wants to say. For this kind of technical content, there may be paragraphs which we need to read twice or more; some of the paragraphs need not be read as we already understand what is written in them. Reading the content in an order decided by us is what I call Non-linear reading. It is suitable for studying the research papers, books, notes. I found it very useful for studying the notes/papers given to me by students.

There exist a third category of reading - skimming. In this we just skim at fast pace through entire content just to get an idea of what the text is all about. This does not help in understanding it,  but to decide that whether I should spend time in reading it.

Since the text is usually organized in paragraphs, we can decide the read a para at a time. One can repeat a para if needed. Viewing the index at the beginning is very helpful in deciding what section to be read first. Within a section, we can use skimming to identify which para to study first. I found that this technique allows us to understand the content in perspectives. I could find lot of flaws in papers written by my students when I used non-linear reading, as it seems to allow us to also have a big picture of what we are discussing in the paper.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Every mistake, flaw identified is an opportunity to improve.

In my posts, I have talked about various tips to improve performance. All these can be arrived at by almost anyone by using simple principle. This most important and should have been mentioned first. On daily basis, whenever you find something wrong, or an error, or make a mistake, try to find what can be changed in your habits, procedure, mechanisms so that such wrong/mistake will not happen. This makes you agile and adaptive to continue improve oneself for a desirable life.

Thursday, April 24, 2014


I thought of writing about it after observing that how people under perform due to stress, take non optimal decisions in given situations. The technique is simple. One need to spend some of the time with himself or herself. One can sit at any location, any stable posture and close the eyes. In fact, the idea is that the environment around you should not stimulate any of the sensory organs. Thus, a peaceful place (no sound), closed eyes (no visual info), any fixed posture (usually padma-asana or any other stable posture will be fine, no spatial awareness through compound functions of senses, no touch and taste), environment devoid of smell is desirable. One need to observe what is going on in mind without interfering with the chain of thoughts. Sometimes, thoughts ceases to exist, that is also fine. This provides the time to your mind to relax and give an opportunity to process the thoughts and ideas which cannot be focused upon in normal routine. It is like clearing backlog. This detachment exercise helps your mind to observe the better options in a given situation and decide a better option than what you can normally do. In order to keep the mind in this better state, doing the practice at regular intervals is advisable. The interval can be adjusted based on the stress levels and lifestyle.

One can also observe the breadth inhalation and exahalation without trying to control them, in their natural form. Idea is basically, do not try to control anything but become aware of whatever is happening.

Another form of meditation is where we do'nt let loose the mind to have its own chain of thoughts. When you want to focus on some work, you can be interrupted by sudden urge to finish something else. When you shift your focus on the other work, you forget to come back and the original work is left unfinished. One need to discard the signals/request for doing something else when you are doing primary work (the work on which you want to focus). You can do it by saying it that you will do it later. If you realise you are doing something else other than the primary work, you can stop and tell yourself that it will be done later, and shift yourself to primary work. An example of this is when you are studying and a phone call comes. You can either continue with the study and tell yourself that phone call can be taken up later. Most of us will take the phone call and then forget what we were doing. Usually the moment you realize that study is your primary work, you can abort the call with reminder to take it later and move back to study. With practice, one can learn to divert the distractions and keep focus on the primary work (in this case study :-) ).