The authors are math professors at Princeton. This book is a result of a 7 year effort. It distills all their math teaching experiences in to 150 pages. The book is targeted towards general audience even though most of anecdotes are from a classroom environment.

The authors use the 5 classic Greek elements that were thought to be the foundation of everything – Earth, Fire, Air, Water and Quintessential – to lay out the principles of effective thinking. The authors had approached Princeton university press with a novel idea, i.e., make three copies of the same book and bundle it to one fat book and sell it. The thought process being the book needs to be read at least three times. In the first read, you should read cover to cover to get the big picture of the book. In the second read you are supposed to pause at various points of the book and go over the action items carefully and in the third read, you are to read randomly across various sections and see the connections. The Princeton press with all due respect to the authors rejected their novel idea. So, the book is just about 150 pages but definitely deserves to be read a couple of times to get the best out of it.

The authors give the following connection between 5 classic Greek elements and 5 elements of thinking

clip_image002 Strive for rock-solid understanding
clip_image004 Fail and learn from those missteps
clip_image006 Constantly create and ask challenging questions
clip_image008 Consciously consider the flow of ideas
clip_image010 Learning is a lifelong journey; thus each of us remains a work-in-progress— always evolving, ever changing— and that’s Quintessential living.

Well, none of this is something that we have not come across before. We already know all this at some level but this book brings those memories in to the present. Having these principles in working memory, will make us constantly question the way we go about learning, the way we work and the way we apply thinking in our lives.