Barbara Oakley



Barbara Oakley, Ph.D., P.E., is a Fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineers and an engineering professor at Oakland University. Her latest book, A Mind for Numbersdraws on research into how the brain works and the mind learns to reveal the secrets to learning--and teaching--math and science. Oakley's approach is thorough, accessible, often humorous, and full of surprises (for example, you have to be creative as well as analytical) but above all, it is practical and effective. She consistently reaches students who feel they are naturally "bad at math," and her timely synthesis of "how the brain learns" is widely applicable for teachers across all disciplines.

She has been dubbed a “female Indiana Jones” because of her globe-trotting adventures (Captain in the U.S. Army, Russian translator on Soviet trawlers in the Bering Sea, radio operator at the South Pole Station in Antarctica), and off-beat way of viewing the world. Her work has appeared in publications ranging from The New York Times to the IEEE Transactions on Nanobioscience. Oakley introduced her teaching methods and approach to quantitative reasoning to inner-city schools in Pontiac, MI and is credited with launching that school district to the top in math performance in statewide tests.

During her visit to Central Michigan University October 1 - 3, 2014, Barbara Oakley gave the following presentations:​​

  • ​STEM and Women: What Does it Take to Succeed in College and Careers?
  • Learning How to Learn: Insights from Neuroscience (and Zombies!)
  • A Mind for Numbers: A Student Workshop with Barbara Oakley
  • Teaching Quantitative Reasoning: A Conversation with Faculty

Click here to view a video archive of Barbara Oakley's public talk, "Learning How to Learn: Insights from Neuroscience (and Zombies!)​," from October 2, 2014.​

Click here to read a revi​ew & summary of Barbara Oakley's Book A Mind for Numbers prepared by CMU faculty members Melinda Kreth (ENG) & Lynn Sweene​y (PSY)