Mathematics has often been likened to a language. Idiot savants (often left-brain
impaired) occasionally take to lightning calculating naturally with no formal training
in mathematics at all. Your left brain hemisphere processes information sequentially
(one part after another). Your right hemisphere uses simultaneous processing.
During World War II, plane spotters were trained to count at a glance not only the
number of planes that were passing by, but by their silhouettes alone, how many of
each type! They didn't count 1, 2, 3, 4 or 3, 6, 9, 12, but they acknowledged them
all as a group! Small children learn to count this way very easily, that is before they
are discouraged from doing so. This right brain faculty is also demonstrated when
carpenters size a board without using a ruler or mechanics assess a certain size
wrench for a particular bolt just by looking at it.
To initiate the right brain's innate ability to calculate instantaneously, count your
footsteps from 1 to 100 rhythmically as you walk or run, and observe simultaneously
the sights and sounds with your 'conscious awareness' while still automatically
counting. When you reach 100, start all over again. When the process becomes
automatic, this simple drill can be expanded to reciting the 2's table -- until that too
While taking a walk, estimate the number of strides that it will take to reach a
certain street, tree or corner. Count the steps and check yourself. Look at a building
and guess the number of floors or windows it contains. Count and verify. When
you get on a bus, flash to yourself the number of people already on board, then count
to double check. Look at a parking lot and guesstimate the number of autos. In your
home, count the number of tiles on a wall or the number of boards in the ceiling or
the number of books on a shelf -- but always at a glance, then check yourself. Open
a book and glance at a particular paragraph, then close your eyes and relate the
number of lines in the paragraph. With enough practice, you'll eventually be able to
look at a flock of birds and instantly give the number.
As a further drill, take a few dominoes and glance at them giving the total number
of spots instantly. With each day of progression, add more dominoes. In lieu of
dominoes, practice with a small handful of peas or beans thrown on the table, each
time varying the number. With 15-30 minutes of practice per day, in a week you'll
suddenly be counting instantaneously and amazing yourself. For another drill,
estimate the length, width and thickness of a board from a 4-foot distance and then
again from a 20-foot distance. Estimate the height and weight of a person the same way. Carnival show men do it. So can you!
For the auditory minded, practice with a tape recorder and a friend. Have the
friend prearrange a series of calculations on paper to be read into the tape recorder for
playback by you later. For instance, have him read at a certain tempo 40 x 3 + 20 ÷ 7
÷ 5 x 4 x 3 ÷ 12 = ? Design your own variety of problems with varying complexity
and press yourself for speed by having the tempo increased progressively. With
practice, you'll find a 'letting go' procedure takes place and the answer just pops up!
It might also help to disengage the left brain from participating in the calculations, so
say the ABC's while mentally doing each mathematical problem. As another drill,
have a friend read words to you from a book and you give the number of letters in
The left brain is comfortable with counting by 2's, 3's, 4's, 5's, 6's and even by
7-item groupings before it has to slide over to the right brain for assistance in higher
numbers. To acquaint your brain's acknowledgement of number groupings, practice
with the following for 1 second glances:
After completing the above, take a 1" x 1" window square cut out from a piece of
paper and slide it over the dots below. Determine the number of each random dot
grouping within the window as quickly as possible; then confirm your count.
Afterwards, do the same thing with a 2" x 2" window square. To determine the dots
more effectively, flash your focus over the dots in a series of saccadic jumps. Also to
disengage your left brain counting tendency, say the ABC's simultaneously to
yourself while you do this flash counting in your right field of vision.