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Subject: Re: Human Calculators, an Encore
Date: Thursday, January 22, 1998 7:49 PM
From: Alex Bogomolny

> I have seen and heard about "human calculators" and am very interested
> in finding out if this stuff is true.

M.Gardner wrote about "human calculators" in Mathematical Carnival and W.W. Rouse Ball in Mathematical Recreations and Essays. Dehaene has a chapter on them in The Number Sense. At my site, some tricks are available through the Algebra and Arithmetic page.

> I am very weak in basic math and would love something like this that
> would allow me to break my dependance of a calculator.

According to Dahaene, "human calculators" keep practicing all the time. Their abilities fade when they stop exercising.

> My question: Is this stuff a scam?

No. I believe it's teachable. Some people will learn more or less than others, but basics can be mastered by a person with an average IQ.

My father is one of them. He's 91 now and does not calculate as fast as before. But still, he's pretty impressive. And he definitely computes most of the time.

>              If it isn't why don't all mathmaticians do it?

Mathematics has little to do with calculations. So there is no good reason to strain with the goal to excel at this art. However, I would vouch that most of mathematicians use many tricks when necessary without even thinking about them.

>              Also, why hasn't somebody learned it, and then
>              taught it without trying to become a millionare?

I do not know. It might be easier to make one's living from what one does well than from anything else. Why won't you try? It's a noble goal.

> I would appreciate your response.

Here it is.

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