What is Mental Math?
Mental Math is an ability to calculate and get a correct answer without using pencil & paper or any other electronic devices.
Mental Arithmetic (Mental Math) is a method of mental calculation; performed on a virtual image of abacus, formed in the mind. It is based on the principles of abacus calculation. In this case, the abacus is merely a tool, through regular practice of which children are able to visualize and internalize the image of abacus in their mind.
By using an abacus, a child can do all arithmetic calculations up to 10 digits and master the skill of doing it mentally, without relying on modern devices such as calculators.
Many people often assume that learning mental arithmetic is merely a method to improve the speed and accuracy of calculations. For example, multiplying 7365 x 2395 within a few seconds; by itself, it is already an amazing accomplishment for most young children. However, there is more to this because when the children are learning UCMAS Mental Arithmetic, they are actually also undergoing the process of developing other aspects of the mind. When the children have acquired an astonishing calculation speed, it is actually only the end result of having developed the following mental abilities: concentration, observation, visualization & imagination, and memory.
Concentration is the concentrated and directed attention towards a particular matter with clear reflection that creates a deep image and mental impression. An enhanced concentration leads to better absorption power. Studying will then be a joyful thing for these children. In the abacus and mental arithmetic education children will be trained to concentrate when Iistening to the teachers questions (that ranges from easy to difficult) and then focus on calculating the answers as accurately as possible.
Observation is the ability to compare and analyze and differentiate objects, motives and steps. It is also a state of alertness and swiftness of the mind and senses. This comes from the need to understand the theoretical requirements of each calculation and at the same time be aware of the time, and promptings from the teachers.
Visualization and Imagination
By using the imagination of the right brain to visualize the abacus in mind, inevitably the powers of visualization would become sharp and clear. Albert Einstein believes that the imagination is important than knowledge, because imagination is the main source of yet-to-be-discovered knowledge.
Memory is the ability to store and retrieve information and experiences. It has been found that memory in the left brain would not stay long, but an image that is recorded in the right brain would stay on in the mind forever. By stimulating the right brain with mental arithmetic, and in combination with the alertness of the eyes, ears and hands, the ability to store and recall is developed together.
Therefore, the ability to solve 10-digits arithmetic problems in only a few seconds is only a small success in comparison to the actual mental training that has been done in order to achieve the skill to perform rapid calculations.