Christian Long

Arthur Benjamin: “Mathemagic”

In TED Talks on April 25, 2010 at 10:23 pm

Extra credit reflection by HAGEN F.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Arthur Benjamin: “Mathemagic”

Arthur Benjamin must be some sort of alien because his ability to do calculations in his head that fast just seems impossible to me, or as he would say “improbable.” The speed at which he does calculations in his mind “blows my mind” and I can not understand how he does it. Math just happens to be my favorite subject (as much as I may love English class), which is why I chose to do a summary of this video and another dealing with the calculus of architecture. Here is a link to that video, for anyone else who enjoys math.

Now this video was recommended to my class by Sharon Lyle — TEDxSMU + TEDxKids @ SMU‘s planner — who happened to visit our school to talk to us about TED and TEDx events just the other day.

Arthur Benjamin was described as quirky, but very intelligent. I agree with that description and something about his personality and his actions makes you want to keep watching the video. He inserts little comic relief, although his entire act makes you chuckle, if not laugh, at the incredible calculations that take no time at all.

Racing the calculator has always been a big ‘trial’ or ‘event’ in math class at my school when we were younger. One of my friends, Colton Clark, was always, and still is, good at doing calculations in his head. Colton may be good, but he is no where as good as Mr. Benjamin is at calculations. Now I can not describe how either of the two of them do it, because neither of them have explained their method to me. Benjamin tried to, and even explained and did a problem out-loud, but I can not follow his math. It is just crazy at how fast he can multiply and add numbers together. I know there are tricks and shortcuts, but when the numbers start to become three digit numbers and four digit numbers, and even five digit numbers, it must be hard to use those tricks. It might even be harder to apply the tricks and you might lose the numbers that you are using.

That is why I think that Benjamin used words to remember numbers.

I, personally, think that remembering words is easier than remembering numbers. Numbers start to mix together when you try to memorize them, and words do not. Words might mix together, but since we use words and remember everything based off words, it is a lot easier. When we have a story to tell to our family from the day at school or work, we pull the story from our memory and that memory is memorized in words, not numbers. Words are everyday, and even by explaining math to someone we must use words, so if something is used constantly it should and is easier to use.

The computations that Benjamin is able to do in his head are truly amazing and remarkable.

While I watched the video I sat there with a smile and my face and I found myself constantly shaking my head out of disbelief. Now as Mr. Benjamin did not give much substance to talk about, and only amazed us, there is not much to say about his video other than it is truly remarkable to watch. I am by no means saying that the video is bad, only that he did not pose and idea other than try to be as amazing as him at math; a goal that many of us will not achieve.

His ability is awe-inspiring and shows just how complex the brain is and how much it can do. Now he only squared numbers in his head, but still that is an amazing feat. Although I am not sure whether that, or multiplying two different numbers is harder or not. I would guess that two different numbers would be harder, but since he does the math in his head, he has to do both by squaring numbers. He has to multiply different parts of one of the numbers to another part of the second, identical number. After going through that thought process, I would have to say that squaring numbers in harder.


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