Using ChatGPT for Learning


I started using ChatGPT to ask questions and clarify my understanding of a new subject I’m learning, and it’s been a great help. For those of us learning things on our own, it can be a boon to our success.

Some Context

I’ve been learning on my own for a long time now. Being as curious a person as I am, it was inevitable that I would start to analyze how I learn to optimize my learning. It took me a while, but here I am.

When I start out learning something, here is how the workflow has been in the past:

  • Obsessively read about the thing.
  • Read more about a thing
  • Bite off more than I can chew and try to do as much as possible
  • Eventually, find equilibrium (usually takes a while)

I have severe ADHD, and I’ve been building functional habits to live with it since second grade. Eventually, I learned to adjust these habits to facilitate my learning. So these days, when I’m trying to break something down, it goes more like:

  • Obsessively reading about the thing (just how my brain works)
  • Find the smallest piece of that thing that I can do and finish quickly
  • Go over what I learned and try to take notes to understand better what I did and did not do right
  • Iterate on that process

And this has served me well. And I work in code, so a process like this works well when I’m learning something new built out of the same foundations I already have. Then comes along this latest thing I’m trying to understand, math. Oh god.

The Maths

So, I did the usual, found some excellent resources, and got started. I’m currently watching a live-stream math course for game devs made by Freya Holmer and it’s dense but also accessible. However, occasionally I need help understanding a concept. While resources do exist for understanding these concepts, one thing I’ve learned about myself is that I need to ask questions to clarify my understanding of something. Tough to do that when you’re learning in a vacuum.

So what do I do? Then I remembered that I read somewhere someone tried using ChatGPT as a better version of Googling the information you need. I wish I had kept the tweet because that idea was a lightbulb for me. So I went ahead and gave it a shot. Here’s what I asked.

What do two-dimensional vectors have in relation to sign?

And there it pops out the following.

Two-dimensional vectors do not have a concept of sign in the same way that one-dimensional numbers do. In one...

Doing this helped me get unblocked so much quicker than I would have been Googling that question and trying to sift through everything Google decided to put on the first couple of pages (after the ads). And even better, I could ask follow-up questions. This was great.

A Note

I’ve seen plenty of videos of people doing something similar in which they ask ChatGPT how to do things. While that is also cool, I want to differentiate from what I’m talking about. I’ve adopted ChatGPT as a sounding board to clarify my understanding better, much like a live instructor would be. I’m still using high-quality resources from intelligent and qualified people, taking notes, and trying to undertake active practice.

High-quality resources created by talented and intelligent people are the best way to learn something for me. Whether in video form, written, visual, or whatever form it takes. If I’m sitting down and listening to an instructor, I’ll raise my hand and ask a bunch of follow-up questions. However, ChatGPT is a great tool to help me clarify what I’m learning if I’m learning independently.