The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking
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The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking

4.0 of 5 stars 4.00  ·  rating details  ·  928 ratings  ·  128 reviews
The coauthors are mathematics professors. Burger teaches at Wiliams College; Starbird at The University of Texas at Austin. Here, they “reveal the hidden powers of deep understanding (earth), failure (fire), questions (air), the flow of ideas (water), and the quintessential element of change that brings all four elements together. By mastering and applying these practical...more
Hardcover, 168 pages
Published August 26th 2012 by Princeton University Press
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I found it insightful and important.

1. Understand basic ideas deeply

2. Learn from mistakes

3. Raise questions

4. Follow flow of ideas

5. Embrace change
Mariah Burton Nelson
This brief, highly readable book challenges readers on several fronts, and includes several good quotes:

Picasso: I begin with an idea then it becomes something else."
"A ship in port is safe, but that's not what ships are built for." Admiral Grace Murray Hopper
"In a chronically leaking boat, energy expended to changing vessels is more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks." – Warren Buffett

The five elements:

1) Earth: Strive for Rock-Solid Understanding
2) Fire: Fail and learn from miss...more
Toma Stone
To say that this book is life-changing would be premature, but it wouldn't be hyperbole. I have not read a book that challenged me so deeply on so many levels in years. I have never rightly considered how I think before. Why do I think the way I do? It is a good and effective way of thinking? Is my thinking "style" one that will aid me or hinder me as I pursue a more fulfilling life?

I have spent so much time thinking, searching, beating myself for answers to big questions Now, after reading this...more
This book doesn't fall within my normal reading territory, but it's good to read outside the box sometimes. The book entered my radar because one of its authors (Burger) is my alma mater's new president.

As others have stated, this is a quick read - but an engaging and pleasant one. Essentially, it's a book about how to think and learn better. It's a great choice for a new college student (any student, really), for teachers, and for anyone in a life transition. Okay, I guess it's good for anyone...more

1. Grounding Your Thinking
1. Understand simple things deeply
2. Clear the clutter - seek the essential
3. See what’s there
4. See what’s missing
5. Final Thoughts: Deeper thinking is better
3. Igniting Insights through Mistakes
1. Welcome accidental missteps-let errors be your guide
2. Finding the right question to the wrong answer
3. Failing by intent
4. Final Thoughts: A modified mind-set
5. Creating Questions out of Thin Air
1. How answers can lead to questions
2. Creating questions enliven...more
Although I found this book interesting, I did feel like it has been written multiple times before. I was taught these concepts in graduate school for my classes on leadership, so it truly was nothing new to me. However, it might be for the general public.

In reality, these books are a dime a dozen. I do think that they author, with his math background, brought in an interesting approach, but it is still the same concepts.
I would like to say "I already knew that" after reading this book, but that would not be true. Here is a distillation of some helpful tips on getting your mind right, acting on what you know, and never -ever- stop learning.
I don't know if the points in this little book will help me to think any better, but it gave me several ideas to teach better.
Potentially life changing, because it takes its own advice to get at the fundamental ability we all have to think as human beings. While much of it rings true on that core level, so much so, I feel so inspired to want to change, and feel capable of doing so - the authors say it right there, and there are many inspirational stories and quotes, which you will need to get the book to enjoy - as a budding writer and psychologist, I want to get more of the ways that these lessons or pieces of advice...more
Serena Alibhai
This book surprised me. I won this book from Good Reads and wasn't sure what it'd be like. I did think it sounded interesting though, which is why I entered the contest. I thought this book may be like others that I've read. But this was different and helpful. This book is simple, well written, and direct.

The authors used quotes to illustrate ways to think and live and succeed effectively. The way they wrote it is like one of my favourite other books by Jack Canfield where he also talks about h...more
Tales Untangled
There are many self-help books that have been written to help us achieve success, however you may define success. The reason I found this book to be refreshing is because it is simple, uses common sense and sites specific patterns to follow.

The 5 habits are attached to elements to make them easy to remember through association with a symbol.

1 – Earth - Grounding your Thinking, Understand Deeply
2- Fire – Igniting Insights through Mistakes, Fail to Succeed
3 – Air – Creating Questions out of Thin A...more
Donald Plugge

This would be a good book for students. A nice guide by professional teachers on how best to learn. The authors break the ideas down into the symbolism of Earth, Fire, Air and Water. Earth refers to "Rock Solid Understanding" where the student figures out the big picture of what she is learning before driving into the details. Fire is Failure, failure is a good thing and teaches the student that progress is being made. Air represents Asking Questions (that analogy was a stretch, but it needed a...more
Dave B.
“The 5 elements of effective thinking” was a short 160+ pages. I was able to read the material in a day. The power of the text was in the fact that it was to the point and practical in nature. I have read several books related to critical thinking and Neuropsychology and this book provides a great summary of active thinking skills without an extra 500 pages of cognitive research history or case studies. I think linking key factors to critical thinking to classical concepts of natural elements wi...more
Andd Becker
The authors invite readers to submit accounts of real-life applications of the five elements of effective thinking.
The authors offer numerous tips, with specificity, on how to accomplish tasks. Students from middle school through graduate school will become more effective by following the guidelines set forth.
Especially useful are the questions designed to help readers focus on challenges and solutions.
I received this book free through the goodreads FIRST READS program.
Parveen Goel
I am giving this book 5 stars for following reasons:

1. Style of writing is excellent, authors have used a story telling style that is very easy to follow and get the message through. Quotations and stories used in book are really inspiring. My favourite one is: "It's not what you don't know that gets you in trouble. It's what you do know that ain't so."

2. Ideas are not new however book serves as a good reminder to five very simple and basic steps that many of us can use. I used idea of asking qu...more
This is the text that goes along with the online course that I am taking now. This text alone is not nearly as powerful as I believe taking the course along with reading it will be. The book feels like "just advice". Working through the puzzles and experiences in the course bring this advice better to light. This book needs something for the reader to connect to. It seems to be written too broadly, towards too wide of an audience. Maybe it is just me...
There are a few good ideas. I think as a teacher the notion that students should be doing the teaching as much as possible is definitely a good one. I also like the idea of assigning a designated "question asker" works well. The elements all line up to the methods of improved thinking: earth is for understanding, fire for making mistakes, air for asking questions, and water for mechanisms of flow and connection. There is also a 5th element of change, which "ironically" matched up with the Greek...more
Any student, worker or life long learner could benefit from reading this book. It contains practical advice on methods to incrementally improve on your situation by initiating action and iterating the solution by identifying where it is incorrect then applying a fix.

The primary focus is to consistently probe your understanding of a topic through critical evaluation to highlight inaccuracies and short comings. Understanding the basics is highly stressed as a strong foundation is key to building...more
Nathan Glenn
This book is very simply written, and is rather short. There's so much out there in terms of improving your brain or thinking skills, but this book says it all in around 120 pages. You could read it in one sitting.
The authors aim to at once burst the bubble for people who believe that smart people are born that way, and at the same time show the reader that very simple principles are involved in being rational, intelligent, creative, good at solving problems and good at learning new things.
I thi...more
What are the elements of effective thinking? First, one must think deeply on given topics, being willing to understand simple aspects well rather than expansive topics only simply. This is the idea of earth -- reaching down. Second, we ought to be willing to undergo failure and revisions to make our ideas better. This is the test of fire. Third, we need to reach for the air by asking questions. The better questions we ask, the better we’ll understand and think and write. Fourth, understanding wh...more
I wish I had read this book when I was in school.
Ray Campbell
This wasn't the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People - my yardstick for such self improvement books. Perhaps I'm somewhat jaded. Having been in the education business for more than twenty years, I've looked at dozens of these kinds of books. Many have offered good ideas in digestible packages from which I have taken buzz words and concepts I've used. The problem with this book for me was that as I read, I found myself thinking "oh, that..." which I already know and use.

I did like the way the auth...more
Loving this so far
In a nutshell: What you know, what you see, and what you can improve.

Thoughts: In the second chapter of this book, the author recommended that this book be read 3 times. The first time, to get an overall picture; the second time, to take in the details; and a third time to really sink in the information. I guffawed at the thought. "Once should be enough."

But I think he was right. I think I could use a second, at the very least, run through this book. This book helps you think about different way...more
David Glad
As authors note, it was relatively quick. Unlike their suggestion to go through it three times, I might not.

Are some worthwhile notes:
To succeed you must fail, to fail you must succeed
Relying on authority for 2000 years versus relying on evidence (how gravity affects falling objects; surely Archimedes is infallible!)
Seeing things from another perspective. (Term that I perhaps best remember an information systems professor by.. Is worth noting lately that taking a bunch of pics while rearranging...more
Chung Chin
The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking is about 5 ways you can improve your thought process. The 5 elements introduced in the book are:
1. Understand Deeply.
2. Make Mistakes.
3. Raise Questions.
4. Follow the Flow of Ideas.
5. Change.
The rest of the book dives deeper into each element with elaboration and examples.

The authors wrote in a clear and consistent manner, tying the whole book together nicely. As you read, you will find anecdotes on how the elements are applied in daily life; not only to solv...more
Finished “The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking” audio book. It’s only 3.5 hours of audio but the authors actually recommend going through the book three times. The first read through should be considered a quick overview, the second should be thoroughly analyzed for the thinking habits discussed, and the third allows you make it part of who you are. I managed to go through it twice and just skipped through the third time for this review. I’ll go through it once more when I can get some actual fr...more
This book presents five important ways for developing ideas and learning/mastering both information and problem solving. Whatever your task, this book will help you shape your thinking process and approach to solving problems that will increase your effectiveness as a student, teacher, on the job, or in any part of your life. While this book is helpful for anyone, I especially recommend it for students who want to achieve more and for High School students preparing for university level studies.
Lee Carlon
Apr 20, 2014 Lee Carlon rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anybody interested in developing their thinking skills
Shelves: 2014
This was a spur of the minute purchase when I saw it advertised on Audible's daily deals. The books has some useful principles and and advice on how to achieve them:

Understand deeply
Learn through failure
Question everything
Understand the flow of ideas

In particular, I really appreciated the advice to deliberately write terrible first drafts (or make terrible first attempts) and then work to improve them.
The wisdom here (about the importance of failing, etc.) is good advice that can be found in many other sources expressed more eloquently. So the special value here is if learning calculus connects with you as a metaphor for life, and if it resonates with you to package the information in the ancient five elements. This gimmick seemed forced to me, and overall the book felt like a repetitive textbook.
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“It’s not what you don’t know that gets you in trouble. It’s what you do know that ain’t so. —Will Rogers or Mark Twain or someone else” 0 likes
“Two men are walking in the woods. A ferocious grizzly bear charges at them and they start to run. While running, they shout: Man 1: We’ll never outrun the bear. Man 2: I don’t have to. My only question is “Can I outrun you?” 0 likes
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