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Secrets of Mental Math: The Mathemagician's Guide to Lightning Calculation and Amazing Math Tricks Paperback – August 8, 2006

4.5 out of 5 stars 348 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“A great introduction to the wonder of numbers, from two superb teachers.” —Brian Greene, author of The Elegant Universe

“A magical mystery tour of mental mathematics! Fascinating and fun.” —Joseph Gallian, president of the Mathematical Association of America

“The clearest, simplest, most entertaining, and best book yet on the art of calculating in your head.” —Martin Gardner, author of Mathematical Magic Show and Mathematical Carnival

“This book can teach you mental math skills that will surprise you and your friends. Better, you will have fun and have valuable practical tools inside your head.” —Dr. Edward O. Thorp, mathematician and author of Beat the Dealer and Beat the Market

About the Author

Arthur Benjamin is a professor of mathematics at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California. He is also a professional magician and performs his mixture of math and magic all over the world.

Michael Shermer is host of the Caltech public lecture series, a contributing editor to and monthly columnist of Scientific American, the publisher of Skeptic magazine, and the author of several science books. He lives in Altadena, California.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 and up
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press; 7.9.2006 edition (August 8, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307338401
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307338402
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (348 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,482 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Zach Foreman on September 25, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am a professional SAT/GRE teacher and tutor, achieving an 800 in the GRE math section. After telling many students that the secret to the math section is mental math and approximation, I decided to see what books were available. I saw that this one had good reviews and ever since then I have been bringing the book to all my classes and tutoring sessions. I recommend this book for those who never felt they got the hang of math as well as people who love it like I do. It is clearly written, very encouraging and has lots of drills.
I love this book and I think that it really will help people feel more confident when they take a test or just are trying to figure the tip.
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Format: Paperback
I bought a copy of Secrets of Mental Maths. As a trained scientist and a professional magician I was interested in the contents, and was not disappointed. Great stuff here for impressing people, and useful techniques for making maths fun. However the Amazon website offered two books togehter - this book and another by the same authors; Think Like A Maths Genius. I ordered both, and was shocked when they were delivered. The second book (Think Like A Maths Genius) was just Secrets of Mental Maths with a different cover. Amazon should have known both were the same book and should not have offered them both together. Don't be caught out by this. That aside, I highly recommend buying one or other version of this book.
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Format: Paperback
At first glance, this book could easily be overlooked and dismissed as another "just buy this book and follow my easy steps to becoming a (genius, millionaire, happier person, psychic, master gardener, whatever)" that would utimately leave you disappointed that you couldn't do it.

Well, this book is not that. It gets right to the point. It's very well written. It's fun. It's practical. And as long as you take your time to mentally practice what you're learning along the way, you can and should be able to master the techniques in this book. You needn't have any mathematical expertise going in. Of course, the author doesn't promise anything special about what you can do with these abilities, although there are some practical applications suggested along the way. All I can say is that it's fun and gives you something interesting to do with your brain when you're bored. And certainly if you like Math already or are a Math teacher, it can be tremendously helpful.

Arthur Benjamin wrote the main content of the book, and Michael Shermer (Skeptic Magazine founder and Scientific American columnist) wrote introductory and closing chapters. These seem a little out of place to me, but they're certainly very good and useful general information about critical thinking. In addition to Bill Nye's (The Science Guy) new intro, James Randi's (famous magician and skeptic) introduction from an earlier edition is included.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I like the book a lot. One of the big revelations is that it really makes more intuitive sense to do arithmetic from left to right rather than right to left as we're taught in elementary school, just like saying "a dollar ninety-five" makes a lot more sense than "5 and 90 and a dollar.".

Anyway, the main purpose of this "review" is to share my success at making a regenerating practice sheet in Excel that will generate an endless number of problems. If you like to tinker with Excel, go for it! But I'll give you mine if you want it. The core of mine is the random number generator "rand()" and I manipulate it with other functions. For example, the cell formula

"=VALUE(LEFT(TEXT(RAND()*100000,0),3))"

(without quotes) will place a three digit random whole number in a cell.

I've begun a spreadsheet of drills for the first few subjects in the book, including multiplying by 11, squaring two-digit numbers ending in five, finding compliments, adding and subtracting three-digit numbers, and multiplying 2 x 1 digits and 3 x 1 digits. For each of those types of problems there are ten examples. The answers are hidden (by using a white font) until you highlight the answer cell. The real beauty is that hitting F9 generates a whole new set of ten problems for each type. As I continue to read the book, I'll add more drills. When you have time to kill, it's a much more productive activity than Free Cell!

Leave a comment if you'd like me to email the spreadsheet to you. With the sample techniques I've used you can probably figure out how to make additional problem types.
37 Comments 44 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I bought this book in its Kindle version for my PC. I am enjoying it, and happy to see progress in my ability to perform mental calculations. Math was never my strong suit, so this is just what I need.
My only negative comment is that the publisher needs to more carefully edit the text. I came upon three typos within the first couple of chapters, and these were errors in operations signs (for example, "+" instead of "x").
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Format: Paperback
This is not the first book of its type but it is, in my opinion, one of the best. The ideas and techniques are presented in an easy to understand manner with heaps of opportunities for practice. The best thing is that they will help anybody.

If you are studying college level maths it will certainly help you impress your friends (though it deals with raw calculation rather than complex theories), but that's not really who the book is aimed at. These are skills you can use, and that will help you every time you go shopping for groceries, when you're trying to figure out the interest on your credit card, or trying to figure out a fair tip.

It's not for the lazy reader though, as each of the skills, useful as they are - require some amount of practice. Don't be put off, it is really only a little effort for a huge return, but it certainly isn't passive knowledge.
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