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How to Master Speed Math

Oct 31, 2007
There is a certain specific rule of procedure that will speed up your handling of numbers.

It is simply a matter of training. Quite new training for many of us, and one directly contrary to the way arithmetic is often taught, but one that offers an amazing improvement all by itself.

The technique is to see only the answer.

When adding, we learn to "see" the two digits 4 and 3 as 7 - not as 4 and 3.

Then, multiplying, we learn to "see" the digits 4 and 3 as 12 - not as 4 and 3.

This may seem elementary. You may already be doing something very much like it in your own number handling. Yet some conscious work in this direction will pay handsome dividends.

Try to remember, if you can, how it was when you first learned to read. You spelled out each word letter by letter. It was slow and painful and not really very enjoyable. But now you grasp whole words and phrases at a glance. It's not only faster, it is easier.

This is unfortunately just the opposite of the way most arithmetic is taught, so most of us have to unlearn what was drilled into us in school. But it is well worth the effort. Arithmetic has been called the language of business. In many most important senses it really is, and in order to understand income-expense and financial statements you need a good grasp of it. Our insistence on the importance of seeing only the answer - of seeing 6 x 7 as 42 - is basic to a vocabulary of the language.

Add these numbers: 8 7 6

Did you see the digits 8, 7, and 6? You were probably taught to add "8 plus 7 is 15; 15 plus 6 is 21".

This is too slow.

Instead, practice looking at the 8 and the 7 and thinking, automatically, "15". Try to do this without saying or thinking either the 8 or the 7. Then, thinking only "15," glance at the 6 and see "21". You don't say or even think "6" at all.

If you have never tried this, the idea may be not only new but rather shocking. You can get used to it very quickly if you try, and it will speed up your number work substantially even without any other technique. It isn't hard. It takes a bit of practice, and knowing your addition tables so you don't have to cudgel your brains to remember what 8 and 7 add up to. It's just what you do when you look at m and e and think "me" without consciously putting the two letters together.

Try it again: 8 7 6
Now practice reading the following additions by seeing only the answer. Don't say to yourself, and try to avoid even thinking to yourself, the digits you are adding. Do your best to "see" 4 plus 5 as 9 - not as 4 plus 5. Read the answers to these additions just as you would read i and t as it, not i and t:
Try: 1 4 3 2 6 2 5 4

Every time you see numbers grouped together, try to see the answer. With a bit of practice, your speed with numbers will improve dramatically.
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