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Mental Math and slowing down aging

I can't prove this but I bet that doing lots of mental Math can help slow down aging. In studying a number of techniques for doing fast arithmetic I notice a number of mental skills at play:

  1. Pattern recognition. Many tricks involve recognizing and exploiting a pattern.
  2. Visualization of processes. Multiplying large numbers together requires you to hold a mental image of multiple steps.
  3. Alertness. Falling asleep will cut way down on your efficiency in every technique!
  4. Mental speed. Impressing your friends will require you to develop speed in your technique.
  5. Memory. Efficient arithmeticians memorize more Math facts than others. Some people, for example, find memorizing the squares of all numbers up to 25 to be helpful in certain techniques. Also, you often need to maintain a running total in your head and keep track of carries..
  6. Concentration. When multiple steps need to happen in a sequence your powers of concentration will improve.

A friend and I were discussing how mental Math could help maintain the plasticity of the brain, its ability to reorganize itself in response to new information. She thinks that doing a number of cross-multiplications every day can keep the brain active as we age. I agree.

Comments (7) Trackbacks (1)
  1. Absolutely. I factor 4 or 5 digit numbers, and do long division (with decimal expansions). In my fourth decade of doing math I continue to notice new and useful patterns in the numbers…

  2. About 10 years ago I noticed that I could calculate $latex a^2$ by judicious selection of b, and rearrangement of $latex a^2 – b^2 = (a-b)(a+b)$ into $latex a^2 = (a-b)(a+b) + b^2$. For example, $latex 281^2$ Let b=19. Then $latex 281^2 = (262)(300) + 19^2$

    I was pretty pleased when I realized this, and though I don’t use it often, am glad it’s sitting in my box of tools. And I never would have found it if I hadn’t been doing some mental arithmetic at the time.

  3. (oops, no Tex. Sorry)

  4. I have absolutely no idea what Jonathan just said, but what I can say is, that I really like this post. Maybe you should write a little more comprehensive on how math can help your help? Just a thought.


  5. woawah…. ditto Alex. Maybe I need to follow this blog a bit more closely…. I do know that I used to be able to remember every single phone number in my brain that I needed after dialing it once or twice. Now that I use speed dial and voice dial I have no recollection of numbers in my lief. Maybe it could be helpful to go back to dialing? Does just remember numbers help keep your mind sharp? (forget the multiplication or the whatever Jonathan said)

  6. @Jonathan – Yeah, I think finding the right technique keeps the brain active, just like applying the technique does.

    @Alex – I didn’t follow your comment – “how Math can help your help?” Please clarify.

    @MichelleVan – Mental Math certainly helps me to sharpen my powers of concentration. I sometimes just make up two 3-digit numbers and cross-multiply them together for fun!

  7. i am age 71+.

    At nights, when sleep gets disturbed due to hydrolic problems, it is great fun squaring 3 digit numbers.

    How does one graduate to the real tough squares of 4 and 5 digit numbers ?

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