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Secrets of Mental Math: The Mathemagician's Guide to Lightning Calculation and Amazing Math Tricks

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  1,916 ratings  ·  101 reviews
These simple math secrets and tricks will forever change how you look at the world of numbers.

Secrets of Mental Math will have you thinking like a math genius in no time. Get ready to amaze your friends—and yourself—with incredible calculations you never thought you could master, as renowned “mathemagician” Arthur Benjamin shares his techniques for lightning-quick calculat
Paperback, 279 pages
Published August 8th 2006 by Three Rivers Press (first published 1993)
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Roy Lotz
Oct 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: math
Some years ago, on a whim, I picked up Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer. In that book, the author—a hitherto unremarkable journalist—details how he learned memory techniques that allowed him to recall hundreds of digits of pi, to learn the names of dozens of strangers in minutes, and to memorize the order of an entire deck of cards in the amount of time it takes me to tie my shoes.

I was completely captivated. The idea that someone could so radically augment his mental prowess using anci
Sep 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I LOVE this book! It's a nerd's dream come true for me. I checked it out from the library and had it for at least two months. It pained me to give it back. I'm going to buy it soon as I get money. These tricks are so wonderful, it's a wonder they didn't use these in school.

I loved the Pi part. I can recite Pi to a hundred digits now! Always been a goal of mine too. I was content with knowing it for 20 digits, but this made it super easy to know it to a hundred. Then the figuring out the weekday
Dec 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book helped me to re-build a fresh perspective on doing math in my head. He builds on a central idea of breaking down seemingly complex computations into simple, manageable ones. He then gives you new ways of seeing numbers such that, once these various patterns become familiar, you are able to employ tricks to getting the math done quickly. One of his first examples is how to square a two-digit number that ends in 5.

"... you need to remember only two things. 1. The answer begins by multipl
Phil Sykora
May 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
Foreword by Bill Nye?


Watching him was definitely the greatest time I had in science class. Knowing that he advocates this book (or was bought out to support it) is pretty much worthy of my attention.

No question there is definitely useful (to the point of being necessary) information in this book. In the first chapter (ironically Chapter 0), I was introduced to a smorgasbord of various tricks that became immediately useful: the rule of multiplying 11s, squaring numbers that end in 5, m
Aug 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: math
As a nerd who is desperate for attention but also very lazy, this book was a godsend! Arthur Benjamin's mental math tips are very easy to learn, yet still appear impressive to the casual observer. Towards the end of the book, there are some real showstoppers, but even if one only gets halfway through the tricks, you could still impress people at a party (a very lame party). ...more
Mike Shultz
Apr 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I slowed down about half way through this book and was ready to give it 3 stars. In some cases I had discovered a fair number of the tricks on my own, or had learned them elsewhere. The processes described were sometimes just brute mathematics, requiring you compute, then hold numbers in your head and compute again.

However, the second half had some cool techniques that I didn't know, and while 4 or 5-digit multiplication problems are just plain difficult (as the author admits), 3 and 4 digit sq
May 11, 2010 rated it it was ok
Two stars really isn't a fair rating. Had some fun adding and subtracting and then multiplying 3 digit numbers in my head.

But as the problems get more complex, my limitations became apparent. Couldn't read through the entire book. When I couldn't do what the book was suggesting, just gave up.

So no - reading this book wont suddenly make you a math genius.

There are some interesting stories with interesting perspectives, but not enough to inspire the me to practice the "tricks" and yes I expect th
Jan 26, 2012 rated it liked it
The author is enthusiastic, but somehow this enthusiasm doesn't transmit to the reader. The tricks work, but I am incredibly bored by this book regardless. (might have worked better with real-life examples, but I for one am hard-pressed to think of a good real-life reason to multiply a pair of two-digit numbers in your head) ...more
Jul 26, 2007 rated it it was amazing
"Special thanks to NATALYA ST. CLAIR for typesetting the initial draft, which was partly supported by a grant from the Mellon Foundation." :D ...more
Kevin M
May 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book! If you love math, or would just like to be able to struggle less with it, this book is a great tool. One caveat however: don't expect magically easy math abilities. Benjamin shows you the tools to make mental math problems exponentially easier, but at the end of the day you still need to calculate!
Now with that out of the way, can you calculate squares and square roots in your head? For two, three-no-five digit numbers? This book will show you the ways of these and many other fa
Lance Greenfield
Dec 16, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this book, and its accompanying video CD. The author is full of enthusiasm and the mathematical tricks are really worth learning, and so simple.

I enjoyed teaching some of the tricks to my grandson, who, in turn, enjoyed showing them off to his friends and teachers at school.

I'd recommend this book to everyone. A lot of fun!
Jeff Yoak
I tremendously enjoyed both the book and the video course. I was familiar with Benjamin both from other courses and from his mental math tricks. Not only did I improve a lot just from watching, but I picked up some really neat new tricks that I know I can get with practice. Lots of fun.
Jul 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
An entertaining math book! Seriously. Easy to read and easy to understand strategies for improving number sense. I think my kids might also like how the author frames the equations as tricks or illusions. Of course, with my short memory, I had to buy a copy so I can refer back to it. Sorry library.
Dec 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those who want maths to be simpler
Recommended to Samantha by: an engineer
Helped me so much to make math easier. I shocked my friends into thinking I was a super genius and with this books helps I won't stop. I put it down because after a while it was starting to bore me but after a few months you can pick back up again. ...more
Apr 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010, non-fiction
I already knew/used a few of these tricks, but some were new and pretty smart. And there's nothing nerdier than doing math in you head on the train, so that was fun. ...more
Justice Mansour
Jul 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
The first third of this book should be mandatory for all math and elementary educators. Gets a little unnecessary after that, but it was still a good read.
Jan 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Some things in here I have no interest in mastering, but there are some neat tricks worth some study!
May 19, 2014 rated it liked it
This was good. I learned some cool ways to do quick math, along with some ways that I can amaze my students.
Benjamin Bastian
I absolutely loved this lecture! The professor who taught it was, in my opinion, phenomenal. The secrets of mental math are, I find, very intriguing.
Jan 27, 2018 rated it it was ok
I watched the "video" book from the library. Fun parlor tricks, but these methods still take lots of practice and memorizing. Definitely a few things for multiplying multi-digit factors I will use going forward but some, like Vedic division, I'll never use. ...more
Oct 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was a really fun and a useful read.
Jan 21, 2018 rated it liked it
Starts out interesting. Loses its spark about four chapters in.
Jun 29, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was quite helpful for my uses but leaves many topics uncovered.

I used the book to prep for various interviews where I need to do math in my head FAST and without paper. This book was an excellent start. I would say that it is too brief to be exhaustive so I'd recommend consulting other materials if you're trying to learn mental math for a serious goal.

What the book does provide is a solid introduction into doing math in your head and if you get through it, you will probably end up wan
Liz Sawyer
Aug 04, 2013 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: home-schooling parents, teachers
Recommended to Liz by: a home-schooling parent
I skimmed this book extremely fast so probably not quite fair to give it a rating. I learned several things I never knew about math. Just the chapter on multiplication in less than 5 minutes helped me understand the math curriculum theories for my sons' elementary school better than I've received from any teacher or the principal. However, it is a hard core book on math so how exciting could that really be? And it's not really a book to read, but more to work through. So I was not motivated to w ...more
Emil Petersen
Feb 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is potent stuff. The first chapters were much like my own way of doing calculations in my head, and so I was lulled into saying to myself "this is not that hard". By the last few chapters my face practically melted. Most of us can recognize when we meet the threshold of our mental abilities, and I met mine when doing larger multiplications. All these calculations requires quite a few balls in the air and it is a whole other level multiplying two 5-digit numbers on stage in front of an audie ...more
Jackie Fowler
Feb 22, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: math
There were enough interesting math shortcuts in this book to keep my interest, especially those dealing with multiplication tricks, squaring, finding divisors (and why those tricks work), and figuring out any day of the week in the Gregorian Calendar. But, there were also many parts that just weren't feasible to me. Only certain people, like the author, are capable of doing all the mental tricks he covers. Some math problems were just too much to do with paper and pencil, and I'm a math person! ...more
William Schram
Apr 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Contains techniques for lightning fast mental calculation and other things for elementary mathematics and random tricks. For instance, it includes the phonetic memory system for recalling numbers and a way to calculate dates in your head. The techniques listed in the book are a bit counter intuitive, but they work pretty well. The book also contains problems for you to do on your own in order for you to go and improve your abilities at this particular skill.

Also contained within are biographies
Mohammed Almahfoudh
The author of this book calls himself a mathemagician. He combines his love to both math and magic in this book. The book introduces creative , simple and easy ways for doing algebra. When reading this book, I realized that I was already using some of the methods introduced in the book. I have to say that even though I am not a math lover, I really enjoyed reading this book and practicing its creative calculations methods. One final note, after you're done with reading the book, check out the re ...more
Franco Arda
Oct 03, 2011 rated it liked it
I'm neither interested in squaring three-digit numbers in my head nor in doing mathematical magic. I'm only interested in practical mental math. I did buy this book for chapter 5; *** Good Enough; The Art of 'Guesstimation' ***. I've been doing guesstimations for many years intuitively, not very structured. This fine chapter teaches beginners the art of guesstimation while experts can go back to the basics and hone their skills while they might discover something new ... I did do so with approxi ...more
Haghia lubis
The first few chapters is commonly educated during my primary school, although the later chapters are much more complicated. Perhaps asian schools with all the kumon and other math's concept has already taught this early on, since asian's are mostly well known with their math capability. yet, it is still refreshing and helpful on a much advanced level, though i don't think the later chapter shall help me much in my daily live. ...more
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Arthur Benjamin holds a PhD from Johns Hopkins University and is a professor of mathematics at Harvey Mudd College, where he has taught since 1989. He is a noted “mathemagician,” known for being able to perform complicated computations in his head. He is the author, most recently, of The Secrets of Mental Math, and has appeared on The Today Show and The Colbert Report. Benjamin has been profiled i ...more

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