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Top 5 Mental Math Methods in the World
Today, you can define mental math in different ways. Some would say, memorizing times tables and memorizing solutions can be part of mental math. Some would say that the ability to do simple calculations in your head can be mental math.
The web dictionary defines mental math as “Calculating the correct answer without using pen and paper or other physical aids.”
There are five methods available today for learning and practicing mental math.
Let’s start with the first one called ‘Memorization’ or better known as rote memorization method where your teachers ask you to pick up boring multiplication tables. This not only kills the child’s interest in math, but also ensures that he develops a hatred for the subject for the rest of his years of study. This system gives its ardent devotee some degree of success at first because it is able to answer the easy problems, but then when the supposedly bigger problems of application come, it is almost out of steam.
The second one gives you a good degree of success and I would highly recommend it to younger people. It originates from China and is popularly known as Abacus (also known as Soroban in Japan). An abacus is a calculating tool, often made as a wooden frame with beads that slide on strings. With this tool, you can perform calculations related to addition, subtraction, multiplication and division with ease. Gradually, you practice with a tool in your hand, and later, when you are experienced, you learn to do it without a tool. This tool is then mentally fitted into the mind and it can then add, subtract, multiply and divide in seconds. This tool also increases the child’s concentration level.
The main disadvantage of this system is that it only focuses on 4 mathematical operations. Concepts beyond these operations such as algebra, square roots, cubes, squares, calculus and geometry etc. I can’t get rid of it at all. It also takes a long time to fully understand the system so you see abacus courses extending over 2 years which leads the child to get bored and then drop out of the course.
Another Chinese system mostly collected from the book Nine chapters on mathematical art presents an approach to mathematics that focuses on finding the most general methods of solving problems. Book entries usually take the form of a problem statement, followed by a solution statement and an explanation of the procedure that led to the solution.
The methods explained in this system can hardly be called mental and lack speed. The Chinese were definitely the most advanced civilization thanks to the Yangtze and the Yellow Rivers, but if I had to choose between the two methods provided by this culture, it would be the abacus.
If wars have a bad side 99.99% of the time, sometimes they can also have a good side because they give birth to stories of hope and creativity. The following system of mental math was developed by Ukrainian mathematician Jakow Trachtenberg during World War II in a Nazi concentration camp to preserve his mind. What resulted is now known as Trachtenberg’s Mathematical Speed System and consists of rapid mental methods of doing mathematics.
The system consists of a number of easy-to-remember patterns that allow arithmetic calculations to be performed very quickly. It has a wider application than the Abacus and, in addition to the four basic methods of operation, it covers squares and square roots.
The method mainly focuses on multiplication and even gives patterns for multiplying by a specific number, say 5,6,7 and even 11 and 12. Then it gives a general method for quick multiplication and a special two-finger method. After practicing the method myself, I realized that multiplication is a very applicable mental method, but the other methods covered for solving division and square roots were not very friendly and impossible to do mentally. I was looking for a much better, healthy method where I could easily perform other operations. Another shortcoming of this system was that it, like the abacus, did not have a wider scope, i.e. to include other fields such as algebra, calculus, trigonometry, cube roots, etc.
A recommendation from my American friend introduced me to what is known as the Kumon Math Method. It was founded by Japanese educator Toru Kumon in the 1950s, and as of 2007, over 4 million children have studied using the Kumon method in over 43 different countries.
Students do not work together as a class, but progress through the curriculum at their own pace, moving to the next level when they have mastered the previous level. This sometimes involves repetition the same set of worksheets until the student achieves a satisfactory result within a certain time limit. In North American Kumon centers, the math program begins with very basic skills, such as pattern recognition and counting, and progresses to increasingly challenging subjects, such as calculus, probability, and statistics. The Kumon Method does not cover geometry as a separate topic, but provides sufficient practice in geometry to fulfill the prerequisites for trigonometry, which is covered in the Kumon Mathematics curriculum.
I was impressed by the glamor surrounding Kumon, but a look at its curriculum left me deeply disappointed. It’s not mental at all. It doesn’t offer any special methods for doing math, and it doesn’t improve your speed by doing Kumon math. There is a specific curriculum with worksheets that are done until they master the subject. Say, for example, a sheet on Division – one would continue to divide the division using the conventional method until a satisfactory result is obtained and then move on to the next level. It certainly doesn’t make the division faster and the process is certainly not mental.
Deep thinking about the reason for its huge popularity in America led me to the conclusion that the lack of a business model of abacus franchisees and Trachtenberg’s speed system in the 1950s. The franchisee model was essential to the country-by-country delivery of the course. This is where Toru Kumon thrived.
Disillusioned with other cultures in the world, my search made me look into my own Indian culture. What I found amazed and amazed me so much that I fell in love with the system and started training students from my neighborhood in it.
This is easily the fastest mental math system in the world called High Speed Vedic Math. It has its roots in the ancient Indian scriptures called Vedas which means ‘source of knowledge’. With it, you can not only add, subtract, multiply or divide which is the limiting factor of the abacus, but you can also solve complex mathematics such as algebra, geometry, calculus and trigonometry. Some of the most advanced, complex and difficult problems can be solved very easily using the method of Vedic mathematics.
And all this with only 16 formulas written in Sanskrit.
High Speed Vedic Mathematics was founded by Swami Sri Bharati Krishna Tirthaji Maharaja who was the Sankaracharya (monk of the highest order) of the Govardhan Math in Puri between 1911 and 1918. They are called “Vedic” because the sutras contained in Atharva Veda – branch of mathematics and engineering in ancient Indian writings.
High Speed Vedic Mathematics is far more systematic, simplified and unified rather than a conventional system. It is a mental computing tool that encourages the development and use of intuition and innovation, and gives the student a lot flexibility, fun and satisfaction . For your child, this means giving them a competitive edge, a way to optimize their performance, and giving them an edge in math and logic that will help them shine in the classroom and beyond.
It is therefore straightforward and easy to implement in schools – the reason for that huge popularity among academics and students. It complements the mathematics curriculum traditionally taught in schools by acting as a powerful checking tool and goes to save valuable time on examinations.
Trachtenberg’s method is often compared to Vedic mathematics. In fact, even some multiplication methods are strikingly similar. Trachtenberg’s system is the closest to the Vedic system in comparison and simplicity of methods. But the ease and mental solvability of the other method, especially division, square roots, cube roots, algebraic equations, trigonometry, arithmetic, etc., clearly gives the Vedic system the advantage. Even NASA is said to use some of these methods in applications in the field of artificial intelligence.
There are only 16 sutras of Vedic mathematics or word formulas that need to be practiced to be effective in the system of Vedic mathematics. Sutras or mathematical formulas of words like vertical and transverse, all of nine and last of ten help to solve complex problems with ease and also one formula can be applied in two or more fields at the same time. The vertical and horizontal formula is one such gem that allows you to multiply, find squares, solve simultaneous equations, and find the determinant of a matrix all at the same time.
If any of these methods are learned at an early age, a 14-year-old student can easily perform quick calculations during his exams and pass them.
Vedic mathematics is rapidly gaining popularity in this millennium. It is considered the only mental math system that is suitable for a child because it helps in the development of his numerical as well as mental abilities. The methods are new and practical and teach only Mental Quick Math.
The system does not focus on learning by repetition as in the Kumon method. The system focuses on improving intelligence by teaching fundamentals and alternative methods. The purpose is not limited to improving performance in school or on tests, but to provide a broader perspective resulting in improved mathematical intelligence and mental acuity.
To know more about Vedic Maths Sutras – the world’s fastest mental maths system, visit http://www.vedicmathsindia.org
This article is written by Gaurav Tekriwal, President of Vedic Mathematics Forum of India who has been conducting high speed Vedic Mathematics workshops for the past five years and has trained over seven thousand students worldwide in this field. He is the author of the best-selling DVD on this topic, which contains over 10 hours on the topic. He is an expert in this field and is revolutionizing the way children learn math.
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