Crowbar_2_(PSF)Construct your own brilliantly apt metaphors to ratchet up your understanding of difficult concepts. Metaphors map difficult concepts on to easier concepts to produce new insights, promote understanding, and supercharge recall. Here’s how…

[hidepost]Example ; metaphors are to learning what binoculars are to vision; they help concentrate and focus our thoughts, often enabling us to see things we normally wouldn’t. Can you think of other ways they might compare? In order to do so, you’ll have to think deeply, comparing and contrasting. That right there is brain fertilizer, folks.

But why stop with just one metaphor? Come up with several. Each time you do, you’ll ferret out new ways of knowing about the subject at hand.

Example two; metaphors are like* coffee filters. You pour in the unprocessed knowledge grounds and turn up the heat of concentration, steeping it in thought, and out comes hot, tasty understanding.

*A simile is a type of metaphor that uses “like” or “as” to explicitly compare to unlike things.

Many metaphors for understanding difficult concepts are well known; the way gravity bends space-time is like the way a heavy ball would bend a tightly-stretched rubber sheet, our brain functions in many ways like a computer, the DNA in our cells is like an instruction book for how to build our bodies. I’m sure you can think of many more.

But don’t wait for someone else to supply you with the metaphor; do the work yourself! The textbook or your prof might spoon feed you a useful analogy, but the hand-crafted tool will be much more memorable and eye-opening.

CAUTION: Don’t rely on just one! Metaphors are powerful, but they aren’t reality. Every metaphor is LIKE the concept in some ways and UNLIKE the concept in others. If you place your trust in just one metaphor, it’s easy to have holes in your understanding. Like a fisherman using two different sized nets, use two or more metaphors to increase your catch of knowledge![/hidepost]



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