You’d probably have heard of the talented entrepreneur Elon Musk – founder of three successful companies: SpaceX, Tesla and Paypal.
Here’s one thing you’d never have guessed…
Elon Musk wasn’t a business graduate. Neither did he study computer science or engineering in college. In fact, he was a Physics graduate. Elon even shared how Physics laid the foundation for his journey in entrepreneurship in a brief quote below.
Now, that seems complicated…
what was Elon trying to say?
And how can learning Physics help your child to think like him?
Don’t worry, I’ll explain in detail below.
You see… most people go through life reasoning by analogy – they adopt
assumptions, beliefs and widely held ‘best practices’ when working or learning.
First-Principles thinking, on the other hand, forces you to question every
assumption or conventional practice in a process. and then create new knowledge and solutions from scratch. For example, if two different students were told to build an electric car from the scratch with minimum materials.
Student A who uses analogical reasoning would probably buy or use a design that’s widely adopted by popular electric cars out there in the marketplace.
Student B who uses First Principles would then dive a little deeper…
He would begin asking questions like:
●“What’s an electric car made of?”
●“How can we use an eco-friendly, yet cost-effective way to generate energy
●“How much is each material worth in the commodity market?”
Subsequently, he’d then work on research and then addressing each and every component of the problem. Notice he didn’t jump straight into “best practices” or “designs of most popular electric cars” ?
Eventually, student B would go on to build a functional electric car that’s far
cheaper than student A. A First-Principles Thinker understands every aspect of a system before making a move – he doesn’t blindly copy or adopt conventional standards just because “everyone is doing it”. Now, taking this lesson back into learning Physics…
If you’ve read my previous article here, you’d certainly have seen how I train each and every of my student to reason from first principles.
While it’s not my intention to slam others, many other Physics teachers preach the idea of memorising definitions, remembering formulas and drilling PYPs (Past-year-papers).
Why are they doing that?
It’s a proven way of performing decently well in exams, and more importantly it’s CONVENIENT. The truth is teaching from first principles is difficult – the teacher has to explain concepts in the simplest way possible such that a 12-year-old boy can understand. If the second method is more difficult, why am I doing it? Because my students have a higher probability to do better – I’ve shown how weak the human brain is in my previous article, that’s why it’s far better if my students understand the fundamental principles of Physics at play.
Because they learn to be better thinkers in the long run – so that they can be
better engineers, programmers and entrepreneurs… Because ultimately as an educator, I’m not just teaching them physics…
I believe in teaching my students how to solve problems more effectively.
Here’s what Rena, one of my students, have to say about me:
Mr Dave Sim’s lessons have always been easy to understand because he is able to break down difficult topics for us and provide us with clear, concise notes. He makes Physics lesson fun for me and i never fail to enjoy every class. I joined Physics cafe in J1 after the June holidays and i definitely improved in my understanding for physics. If i can go back in time, i wished i would have joined in the beginning of the year. I definitely think that the 2017 JC2 Physics and Math cafe cohort will do well based on my observation. I would recommend my friends to join:):)
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