Top-Down vs. Bottom-Up Learning

I’ve been spending a lot of time over the past 2 years about learning bottom up vs. top-down.

I think top-down learning works pretty good if your search function is very good, i.e. if you get stuck, you know where to look.

Bottom-up learning allows you to cast a wider net. You learn way more, but maybe a lot of things that you learn are not relevant.

This is a good blog that tells you the pros and cons:

At school, we do bottom-up learning.

I tend to also do bottom-up learning. Some of my friends do really well with top-down learning. It gives you a lot more context.

  • Actually no, when I do projects, I do a lot of top-down learning. But then I get stuck, so then I do bottom-up learning. So I do both.

The best approach is a blend of both, same as Iterative Deepening.

With top-down learning, you often end up with a superficial understanding of the problem.

  • To mitigate this, combine both.
  • Start by getting an overview of the system or problem (top-down), then delve into the basics and details (bottom-up) to challenge assumptions and fill knowledge gaps.

Iterative Deepening Learning

The blend of top-down and bottom-up learning is known as iterative deepening. By repeatedly using top-down to get an overview and then bottom-up to understand the specifics, you can achieve a more solid and comprehensive understanding, leading to more accurate solutions.

It’s a careful balance, Everything is a Tradeoff.