What is Math?

What is math?  It can be compared to a very useful tool, or maybe a collection of tools. Sometimes textbooks concentrate a lot on teaching about the small details of each and every type of tool.  But it’s also really important to focus on how and when to use the different tools. This is my practical approach to teaching the subject. And it’s also important to note that math is much more than just numbers! If you’re really good with shapes and how they relate, you might enjoy geometry. And if you are good at solving puzzles, chances are that logic will be a great match for your skills.


NOTE: Be sure to pause the video when the timer reaches 6:30 to work on the Earn, Break Even, or Lose problem.


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How to Multiply by 12

Do you think you’ll need to know how to multiply by 12 or 11 more? Think of it this way: how often do you need to figure out how many dozen you need of something? It comes up a lot more than needing to know how many batches of 11, doesn’t it? That’s because of the way we’ve decided to group things mathematically as a society.


Here’s why: We picked 12 based on how we used to count on our fingers using the “finger segment” system. If you look at your hands, you’ll notice that your index finger has three segments to it. So does your middle finger, ring finger, and pinkie. Since you have four fingers, you actually have 12 sections for counting with (we’re not including your thumb, which is the pointer… your thumb rests on the section you’re currently on). When your thumb touches the tip of your index finger, that means “1”. When your thumb touches the middle segment, that’s “2”, and the base segment is “3”. The tip of your middle finger is “4”, and so on. That’s how we came to use the 12-in-a-batch system.


If you’re wondering why we didn’t use the 24-in-a-batch system (because you have two hands), that’s because one hand was for 1-12 and the second hand indicated the number of batches of 12. So if your left hand has your thumb on the ring finger’s base segment (9) and your right hand has the thumb touching the index finger’s middle segment (2 complete batches of 12, or 2 x 12), the number you counted to is: 24 + 9 = 33.


Fortunately we now have calculators and a base-ten system, so this whole thing worked out well. But still the number 12 persists! So I thought you’d like this video, which expands on the idea of quickly multiplying two-digit numbers and three-digit numbers by eleven. This is very similar to the shortcut used when multiplying by eleven, but it also involves some doubling. Are you ready?


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Divisibility

Can you look at a number and tell right away if it’s divisible by another number? Well, it’s pretty easy for 2 – if it’s an even number, it’s definitely divisible by two. Testing whether a number is divisible by five is easy as well. How can you tell?


In this video, I’ll show you some tricks to determine if a number is divisible by 3, 4, 6 and 7 before you start to divide. Some are simple and fast and some are a bit more complex. These can be very useful tricks for working with larger numbers (or just really fun to play with for a bit).


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What Day Were You Born On?

This is not only a neat trick but a very practical skill – you can figure out the day of the week of anyone’s birthday.


If you were born in the 20th Century, (1900-1999), we can use math to find out which day of the week you were born. If you’re a little too young for this, try it with a parent or grandparent’s birthday. Watch the video and I’ll teach you exactly how it works.


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$1 Word Search

Have you ever heard of a dollar word search? It’s a special kind of puzzle where the letters in a word add up to a coin value. For example, an A is worth a penny, the letter B is worth two cents, C is worth three cents, and so on. Are you completely confused? That’s okay!  Just watch the video and I’ll show you how it all works.


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Isn’t that SUM-thing?

This is a neat trick that you can use to really puzzle your friends and family. If someone gives you a three-digit number, you can actually figure out what the end result will be after you’ve received two additional numbers, but before you actually know what those numbers are. Does this sound confusing?  Watch the video and I’ll show you how it works.


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How to Add and Multiply Quickly in your Head

Want a peek under the ‘hood’ of my brain when I do a mental math calculation? This video is a slow-motion, step-by-step snapshot of what goes on when I add numbers in my head. The first thing you need to learn is how to add from LEFT to RIGHT, which is opposite from most math classes out there. I’ll show you how to do this – it’s easy, and essential to working bigger numbers in your head.


Here’s what you do:
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Multiplying 2-Digit Numbers by 11

Here’s our first MATH lesson. It is so easy that one night, I wound up showing it to everyone in the pizza restaurant. Well, everyone who would listen, anyway. We were scribbling down the answers right on the pizza boxes with such excitement that I couldn’t help it – I started laughing right out loud about how excited everyone was about math… especially on a Saturday night.


When you do this calculation in front of friends or family, it’s more impressive if you hand a calculator out first and let them know that you are ‘testing to see if the calculator is working right’.  Ask for a two digit number and have them check the calculator’s answer against yours.


If you really want to go crazy, you can have math races against the calculator and its operator, just as the Arthur Benjamin video shows.  (Only you don’t need to do the squaring of five-digit numbers in your head!)  Have fun!
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Multiplying 3-Digit Numbers by 11

If you can multiply 11 by any 2-digit number, then you can easily do any three digit number. There’s just an extra step, and make sure you always start adding near the ones so you can see where to carry the extra if needed.
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Mental Mathemagic

We’re going to throw in a few math lessons here and there, so if math really isn’t your thing, free free to just watch the videos and see what you think. All of these lessons require only a brain, and once in awhile paper and pencil, so this area is ‘materials-free’ and jam-packed with great mathematical content. If you’re the parent, stick a calculator in your pocket and test out your kids as they go along.


Some of what we cover here is based on the book “Secrets of Mental Math” by Arthur Benjamin, an incredible professor at Harvey Mudd College. He’s also known as the “Lightning Human Calculator”. Here’s a video about him you may enjoy:



We’re going to break down the steps to really getting to know numbers and put it into a form that both you and your kids can use everyday, including shopping at grocery stores, baking in the kitchen, working on the car, and figuring out your taxes. It’s a useflu tool for flexing your mind as well as appreciating the simplicity of the numerical world.


You can learn this stuff provided you already know how to add and subtract, as well as your multiplication tables. Sound like fun? Then let’s get started! Click here for your first lesson.


Squaring Two-Digit Numbers

This neat little trick shortcuts the multiplication process by breaking it into easy chunks that your brain can handle. The first thing you need to do is multiply the digits together, then double that result and add a zero, and then square each digit separately, and finally add up the results.


Slightly confused? Great – we made a video that outlines each step. There’s a definite pattern and flow to it. With practice, you will be able to do this one in your head within a very short time. Have fun!
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How to Square Bigger Numbers Faster in your Head

Squaring three-digit numbers is one of the most impressive mental math calculations, and it doesn’t take a whole lot of effort after you’ve mastered two-digits. It’s like the difference between juggling three balls and five balls. Most folks (with a bit of practice) can juggle three balls. Five objects, however, is a whole other story (and WOW factor).


Once you get the hang of squaring two-digit numbers, three-digit numbers aren’t so hard, but you have to keep track as you go along. Don’t get discouraged if you feel a little lost. It’s just like anything you try for the first time… when you’re new at something, in the beginning you aren’t very good at it. But with practice, these steps will become second nature and you’ll be able to impress your friends, relatives, and math teachers.


The video below has two parts:
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How does a Two-Fingered Alien Count?

One day, my kid asked me how a calculator comes up with its answers. That’s a great question, I thought. How does a calculator do math?


After thinking about it, I realized this was a great way to teach him about binary numbers. I am going to show you how to not only count in binary, but also help you understand the basis of all electronic devices by knowing this key element.


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