Students can do the equivalent of two hours' study in ten minutes - and it's fun.
Youngsters who were just average students, or even low achievers, suddenly find they can perform like geniuses.
Gifted children find to their joy that they can not only achieve more than before, but they can make ordinary classes and subjects more of a challenge.
Children are walking around the school doing difficult mathematical calculations in their heads. Students are learning information from textbooks as fast as they can read. Teenagers are doing the bulk of their revision, preparing for exams, while waiting in the checkout line at the supermarket.
Does this sound like science fiction? Too good to be true?
A Melbourne man, Mr. Bill Handley, has recently returned from Canada and the United States where he has been teaching his revolutionary study methods to students and teachers. He spent a month in Vancouver, Canada, working with the Vancouver School Board, teaching in schools and colleges, and conducting professional development programmes for teachers. After five minutes of walking into the classroom, Mr Handley's students are sold. They have mastered the multiplication tables, and are multiplying numbers like 96 X 97 in their heads faster than you could tap the numbers into a calculator. From then on, the class is pure enjoyment.
"How do you subtract nine from fifty-six in your head?" he asks. Teachers and students alike are surprised at the variety of answers. Some do the problem in their heads the same way they would with pencil and paper. They are the slow ones. The fast students take away ten, then give back one. Some take away six, then take another three to make the nine. Other methods include counting backwards, counting on fingers, or taking sixteen and adding seven.
Mr. Handley makes his point. "We give students a simple problem. We don't realise there are so many strategies for coming up with the answer. We think the fast students who use the best methods are more intelligent. They make fewer mistakes because their method is simple. We think the slow students are less intelligent; they make more mistakes because they are using more complicated methods. I teach teachers to take more notice of how students think."
When he was interviewed on a Vancouver radio station, demonstrating some of his mathematical techniques on air, the school board received more than a thousand telephone calls, forcing them to open new lines and assign extra staff to handle the enquiries.
Mr. Handley then spent time working with the 21st Century School Project in Yakima, Washington. This is an experimental programme, funded by the U.S. government, set up to see what students can achieve when placed in an ideal learning environment with the best possible teaching methods. They researched Bill's methods and results before inviting him - all teaching methods used within the programme must be proven. Bill spent the time taking classes for teachers and students. He spent half a day teaching inmates at the Juvenile Detention Centre. These were teenagers who had passed through the courts, convicted of serious crimes. The authorities did not expect the class to last for an hour and had alternative programmes at the ready, but when Bill called for a break the students demanded he continue.
In a session at Davis High School, all grades 11 and 12 students were able to learn information in ten minutes that would normally take at least two hours of study to master. One excited student came up after to say, "It's so simple. It's a wonder everyone hasn't thought of it." Teachers, parents and observers from the project sat in on the class. Before leaving, Bill also made a training film to teach his methods within the 21st Century School Project.
Bill believes it isn't so much the brain that we are born with that makes the difference, it is how we learn to use it. "There is no such thing as having a mathematical or a non-mathematical brain. The high achieving students use better methods than the low achievers. Teach the low achievers the same methods that the high achievers use and you will get similar results. We teach better methods than the high achievers use. A principal of a high school in Los Angeles told how he came home from school as a youngster and complained to his parents that he could not understand the math. His parents told him not to worry, it runs in the family, none of us has ever been able to do math. In fact, you come from a long line of Reynolds who were dumb-bells at mathematics. The tragedy was he believed it. Now he says he can see that it was the way he was taught; had he sat in my class then, he could have had a reputation for being a genius."
Bill founded Learning Unlimited Australia in 1979, and many success stories followed. A young boy's mother heard Bill interviewed on a radio programme in Brisbane and sent for his materials. After the boy worked with the package for three weeks, he got 187 correct answers out of a possible 190 in a test. This was the first math test he had ever passed in his life! A grade 11 student attended a seminar and was using the methods next day in class. The class was given four months to learn an assignment - he mastered it before the end of the week to the astonishment of his teachers and fellow students. They now call him "Einstein."
Bill explains that the methods tend to make students more creative in the way they learn and in how they apply that knowledge. They understand the material better. It also enables them to overcome nervousness, which is great news for those who suffer from examination nerves. "When a student sees such spectacular results for his effort, he is inclined to put in more time studying. He knows the effort will be worthwhile."
At a secondary school in Melbourne where Bill taught, he had a class of gifted students with the Gifted Children's Task Force, and two classes of underachievers. "We had observers come in to watch some of the classes, and the underachievers wanted to show off their new skills. They performed like prodigies. When an observer from a Melbourne teacher's college left, all the students gathered around me and wanted to know 'What did he think of us, Sir?' The course did wonders for their self-esteem. In fact, students complained to the school administration, 'You either have to be extra smart or extra "dumb" to get in Mr Handley's class.' We saw some dramatic changes in personality."
When Bill was studying at high school' he was considered a good student, but not exceptional. "I had a math teacher, Harry Forecast, who made a world of difference in my approach to mathematics. He made me feel like Sherlock Holmes solving difficult cases. I remember being in class and not being able to wait to get home and try some of the problems for myself. I also started to buy books on recreational mathematics.
"When I began studying electronics, a number of older technicians took an interest in me and taught me how to solve problems in logic. Most problems on the job don't require knowledge of the subject for the solution, but a combination of knowledge and logical thinking. "And because I had to do so much study, in my first year I had to do a year's study in four and a half months, I had to have a system to get through the work."
Bill lives in Croydon, Victoria, at the foot of the Dandenong Ranges with his wife, Barbara. They have three daughters. Wendy and Karyn were born in Melbourne, and Tania was born in Hanover, West Germany. The family spent six years in Germany where Bill worked as an English teacher in a Hanover school, and also as a consultant engineer for a firm that produced language laboratories.
Before the family left for Europe, Bill developed an interest in learning languages. "It became a bit of a joke with the family," he recalls. "When I knew we were travelling on an Italian ship, I learnt basic survival Italian in less than two weeks. Because our table waiter spoke no English, I became our table's official interpreter. Some of the learning methods I used became incorporated into my general approach to teaching, and to studying; especially the principles of reinforced learning that were incorporated in the Italian course.
I spent six months learning German, and when I arrived in Germany I was given work translating technical texts from English to German. I then had to explain these texts to German engineers. I enjoyed it, but it was hard work." Working with different languages and alphabets enabled Bill to formulate logical approaches to teaching reading and spelling. Bill regularly addresses literacy teachers and workers in Australia and North America. When the family returned to Australia, Bill set about getting Australian teaching qualifications. The learning methods he had developed not only helped him through the course, but he chose many of his techniques and principles for research assignments.
Bill spends two to three months in North America each year, and spends about six months each year teaching in Australian schools. He has produced packages and books for home study and conducts many seminars for the public. His teaching materials are used by teachers in schools around the world.
For further information about classes and home study courses
Learning Unlimited Australia Pty Ltd
(A.C.N. 006 433 629)
P.O. Box 545,
Lilydale Vic. 3140,
or telephone 011-613-9725 9756 after 4pm Pacific Time.
or fax 011 613-9723 8401 (24 hours)
In Australia, phone: (03) 9725 9756, fax: (03) 9723 8401