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The average person probably believes that a critical key to success in life is one’s intrinsic intelligence as measured by IQ.  But they are probably wrong.

Some of us are “math people” and some of us just aren’t, right? Sure, hard work matters a lot too, but in many academic situations, no amount of hard work can really make up for a lower level of raw intelligence or aptitude for certain types of academic or cognitive skills, right? Not really.

A large body of academic research has been developed over the past two decades which suggests that the above sentiment is much closer to wrong than right.

As Mark Twain once said, it’s not what we don’t know that gets us into trouble, “it’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.”

In fact, your raw intelligence is “malleable” – it can change over time through focused effort and deliberate practice that builds critical thinking, mathematics, and reading comprehension skills.

And in any case, non-cognitive skills unrelated to IQ, like the ability to pay attention, be curious, plan ahead, and persevere through initial failure and adversity, may be what really leads to academic success, including success in math and science, as well as success outside the classroom at home and at work.

There have been a variety of entertaining, insightful, and award winning books based on this research with titles like “The Talent Code” and “Brain Rules” and “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.” We feature some of these books on our virtual bookshelf, and have begun to analyze and concisely summary them as well.

Each of these books, in its own way, tells part of the “new story of academic success.” A parent or student, after reading one of these books, walks away with new insights and more tools to increase the odds of success in school, at work, and in life in general.

There is a problem, however. This new story of academic success is a complex one.

Even though it may not be true, it’s easy to understand the idea that your IQ in large part determines how well you perform in your math class. Particularly when you are starting from this point of view, the idea that how well you perform is actually a function of your mindset about intelligence, your ability to focus, your study habits and planning skills, and how you deal with adversity etc. just seems hard to digest and internalize.

In addition, many of the books that cover these topics, understandably, lean a bit more towards entertainment than self-help. They don’t really offer a roadmap for what to do differently based on the information being provided. They are written to engage and inspire readers.

Finally, there are now a large number of books on the above topics, each of which address one of the above topics from a different angle, and most of which are important to understand. But everyone’s time is limited. It just isn’t practical, in many cases, to read as many books as you would need to read to really learn how to help yourself or your child improve academic performance and be more successful in and out of the classroom.

So, we are undertaking a systematic effort to read and summarize what we deem as the most important books about academic success, chapter by chapter. Click below to sign up for our free book summary distribution list to receive:

  • Summaries of each chapter of the books on our virtual bookshelf
  • Full summaries of the most important books on academic performance
  • Insightful commentary and “key actions” to implement the most important ideas

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