Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking” as Want to Read:
The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  5,230 ratings  ·  442 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
Published September 19th 2012 by Audible, Inc. (first published August 26th 2012)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.08  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,230 ratings  ·  442 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking
Oct 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: You
So last year I finished reading The Six Thinking Hat…

and this year I read The Five Elements of Effective Thinking…

I guess Four more years are left to crack the code of the mind

Although the book is about the mind, it’s far from being theoretical. As Goethe once said: knowing is not enough; we must apply.. The book is worthless unless you repeatedly practice each of the 5 elements.
It’s basically a guide to develop certain habits. I found it useful as it reiterates some earlier knowledge and
Mathias Bear
Aug 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
A rather brief, yet inspired book which explains some of the most underrated methods of metacognition in the process of creation and learning.

I would reread and work my way through each and every point and try to implement them one by one, as though they may look rather simple, but they are fundamental and can improve one's life drastically.
I do not like the way the authors conducted the book. Though It was nicely structured and had great insights without any extra fuss, this book did not
Jun 21, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business-books

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
Darian Onaciu
Nov 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of those rare books I wish I've read many years ago.

Why should you read this book?
It condenses a toolkit of five principles which you can use to learn anything. Yes, that does sound incredible but the author's arguments are scientifically sound thus very convincing. I shall put their methods to test as I am currently scratching the surface of a challenging domain: programming.
It's also a very short book so it eases its reread and applicability.

The authors are two mathematicians but
Mario Tomic
Sep 13, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Finished reading this book recently, nothing really ground breaking but it's well put together in one single place so there is value into reading and reminding yourself of these concepts.

The 5 elements from the book are:
1. Understand Deeply, go for depth and make a rock solid base in anything you wanna achieve.
2. Make Mistakes, correct solutions rarely come from the first attempt so be persistent and assume your gonna make mistakes.
3. Raise Questions, be ready to challenge concepts and solutions
Sep 07, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
Ahmed Adel Sharf Aldin
So insightful, extremely important, redicuously applicable
Teo 2050

Burger EB & Starbird M (2012) (03:09) Five Elements of Effective Thinking, The

Preface: Thinking Makes the Difference

Introduction: Elements of Effective Thinking, Learning, and Creating

1. Earth: Grounding Your Thinking: Understand Deeply
– Understand simple things deeply
– Clear the clutter–seek the essential
– See what's there
– See what's missing
– Final thoughts: Deeper is better

2. Fire: Igniting Insights through Mistakes: Fail to Succeed
– Welcome accidental missteps–let your errors by
Javier Lorenzana
One of the best learning-how-to-learn books that I’ve read. It’s simple, direct, and insightful. Heck, I might even read it again.

How this book impacts me in the long run is what really decide my rating. For now, I’d say it’s pretty good.

Key Takeaways
- the best insights come from mastery of the simple things
- stuck? fail intentionally then revise
- when in lecture, actively create questions
- see the big picture: how ideas flow and are linked
- always in beta
David Hojah
Oct 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing you have to read it many times :)
Jan 29, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I quite liked this little book!

I stumbled upon it as I was searching for another book in the library - Thinking Fast and Slow. TFAS happened to be located in a section of the library that I think must be named non-fiction books designed to interest Blakely, as almost every book in that section I had either already read and liked, wanted to read, or sounded really interesting. The title for this book and it's small size intrigued me so I picked it up.

This book focuses on better ways to learn,
Aug 20, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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 ...more
Jun 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Surya Kumar
Oct 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is so practical how to think by comparing with 5 earth elements.
1. Ground: Understand Deeply.
2. Fire: Make Mistakes.
3. Sky: Raise Questions.
4. Water: Follow the Flow of Ideas.
5. Change.
A must read for everyone to enhance the way of thinking.
Sep 22, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Rich Yavorsky
Jul 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While "5E" is a quick read (~120p, pocket-sized hardcover), the book shows that good ideas come in small packages.

5E is a "mental fundamentals" book, and should be filed with the ranks of classic John Wooden or Augie Garrido guidance. Being in Austin, I had the pleasure of attending a lecture that co-author Prof. Starbird hosted at my company: Starbird clearly espouses the principles of this book in his 30+ year academic career, and shared his "elements" with our audience with enthusiasm and
Jul 29, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The 5 Elements of Effective thinking is not essentially a bad book. It just felt wrong that two university professors had limited most of their outlook on how a "student" can do more effective thinking rather than a graduated full-time employee.

I wrote the above because most of the examples and notions in the book are pointed towards students and I couldn't help but feel that this book was mostly written to address the authors' students or colleagues.

Anyhow the book offers 5 (or 4 main) insights
kartik narayanan
Read the full review at

Extraordinary people are just ordinary people who are thinking differently – and that could be you

What is the book about?
“The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking” is written by Edward B. Burger and Michael Starbird, both of whom are professors of mathematics, authors of many articles and books and recipients of multiple awards including excellence in teaching.

There are a couple of hypotheses that have gone into the motivation for ‘The 5 Elements of
Jun 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4 stars

A relatively short, yet very comprehensive, overview of applicable critical thinking skills written by two math professors, especially geared towards students while at university and then later in life. Great high school grad. gift idea.
Chanh Nguyen
Apr 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The key message in this book:

Extraordinary people are just ordinary people that think differently. By using the proven methods of effective thinking, that ordinary person that thinks differently could be you.

The five elements can help you on your path:
The Earth centering your ideas,
Fire inspiring your confidence,
Air clearing your thoughts,
Water helping your ideas flow from one inspiration to the next
Change – leading you to success.

Ex: Two men are walking in the forest when suddenly an angry
Sue Hilger
Aug 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved this ... have recommended it to my brother and will purchase as gifts to my family's younger generation. Lots of helpful - albeit obvious - advice, yet told in a way that resonates AND in a way that you can incorporate into your daily life.
John Hannan
Jul 10, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
At least it's short
Nov 27, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 12, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've read dozens of similar books, and whilst this one doesn't add much new, it neatly encapsulates a lot of basic thinking about thinking, pushing forward the core concepts that:

* It's always possible to understand something more deeply
* It's vital to make lots of mistakes along the way
* You need to get much better at asking lots and lots of questions
* Everything builds on previous ideas
* The key to getting better is continuous constructive change

It's short, easy to read, simple without being
Ray Campbell
Jun 22, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2014
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
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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Solving the Procrastination Puzzle: A Concise Guide to Strategies for Change
  • The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills
  • Be Obsessed or Be Average
  • What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite
  • The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It
  • The Millionaire Booklet
  • The Practicing Mind: Bringing Discipline and Focus into Your Life
  • Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
  • The Great Mental Models: General Thinking Concepts
  • This Will Make You Smarter: New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking
  • Making Habits, Breaking Habits: Why We Do Things, Why We Don't, and How to Make Any Change Stick
  • The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything...Fast
  • The Science of Rapid Skill Acquisition: Advanced Methods to Learn, Remember, and Master New Skills, Information, and Abilities
  • Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone
  • Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long
  • Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success
  • The 10x Rule: The Only Difference Between Success and Failure
  • Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time
See similar books…
“The simple and familiar hold the secrets of the complex and unknown.” 4 likes
“In everything you do, refine your skills and knowledge about fundamental concepts and simple cases. Once is never enough. As you revisit fundamentals, you will find new insights. It may appear that returning to basics is a step backward and requires additional time and effort; however, by building on firm foundations you will soon see your true abilities soar higher and faster.” 4 likes
More quotes…