Feynman the Teacher

I started reading Six Easy Pieces by Richard Feynman today. I absolutely loved his autobiographical collection of stories: Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! and What Do You Care What Other People Think?. However, I wanted to read something that would give me more insight into Feynman the Teacher. So, I started reading Six Easy Pieces since I don’t have time to read the entire Lectures on Physics this summer. I’m just getting started, but I found a couple of great quotes in the introductions. Here’s a note he wrote in 1952:

First figure out why you want the students to learn the subject and what you want them to know, and the method will result more or less by common sense.

Of course what is common sense for Feynman probably isn’t for the rest of us. Given his reputation as a showman and brilliant lecturer, I find his “solution to the problem of education” particularly insightful:

I think, however, that there isn’t any solution to this problem of education other than to realize that the best teaching can be done only when there is a direct individual relationship between a student and a good teacher — a situation in which the student discusses the ideas, thinks about the things, and talks about the things. It’s impossible to learn very much by simply sitting in a lecture, or even by simply doing problems that are assigned.

My summer inspiration.

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