The authors liken this to legendary basketball coach John Wooden, who went so far as to teach players how to put their socks on correctly.
But the insight did not immediately illumine the importance of practice.
As part of the Uncommon Schools charter school network, the authors began to train their teachers with video clips of skilled instructors performing a given technique. The trainees discussed and analyzed until they were sure they understood it, then moved on to the next technique.
They left the class full of confidence but when surveyed three months later were not so sure. Something often went wrong when they tried the techniques in class.
The authors realized that their trainees hadn't practiced. It was like trying to learn a new backhand at a match at Wimbledon's Centre Court.
They added repetitive exercises to their training workshops. Teachers played students so the situation would resemble a real classroom. Teachers still had trouble getting it right.
The real-world situation was too distracting; the authors dialed down the student disruption so their trainees had a chance to do the technique correctly several times. Once it became automatic, they could handle unpredictable moments.
In their real classrooms, the new skills began to work. Teachers not only implemented the techniques but also began to innovate and adapt them in new ways.
The authors know this because they made and studied videos of the teachers at work, one of their favorite tools.
In the future, schools will still often spend big money on training teachers in ineffective ways.
Learning to practice, this book vividly illustrates, takes time and effort, trial and error. It won't happen tomorrow.
But even a small movement in the direction of more practice will reap benefits, in teaching and many other things we do.
Mathews is an education writer for The Washington Post.