Shakespearean Mnemonics: Comedies

Published on Thursday, January 31, 2008 in , , , ,

William ShakespeareIf you've been practicing your Shakespearean histories and tragedies, you already know more than half of his plays! In this final installment, you'll learn to memorize all the comedies.

The 16 Shakespearean comedies are The Tempest, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Measure for Measure, The Comedy of Errors, Much Ado About Nothing, Love's Labour's Lost, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Merchant of Venice, As You Like It, The Taming of the Shrew, All's Well That Ends Well, Twelfth Night, The Winter's Tale, Pericles, and The Two Noble Kinsmen. We'll use the same technique as was used in memorizing the tragedies.

When we last left our story, a leering king had landed at the feet of Antony and Cleopatra, who hit him down into a cymbal line, which should make you think of King Lear, Antony and Cleopatra and Cymbeline. It is from the cymbal that we will continue our rather weird story mnemonic for the comedies.

When the cymbal is picked up, we magically find a full cabinet-size arcade version of Tempest under it! To help make this image more memorable, make sure you have Java installed, and try out the video game for yourself.

Imagine that this Tempest video game is being played by two men dressed like they do at a Renaissance fair. These men are two gentlemen of Verona, and are endlessly pumping quarters into the video game. However, their wives, who are in Windsor Castle in similar dress, leave there to tell their husbands that video game time is up, laughing the whole time. These ladies would, of course, be the merry wives of Windsor.

The two gentlemen and their merry wives leave the arcade, and go to Love and Love Tailors (you'll see where this name comes in later) to get a new suit tailored for them. They go in, and both tailors start taking all the measurements possible, and writing them down measure for measure. Unfortunately, these two guys aren't very good tailors. They keep making one sleeve or pant leg too long, and mixing up the measurements. Initially, these mistakes seem like a Comedy of Errors, but our two gentlemen begin to get upset at these repeated mistakes.

The gentlemen and their wives leave the place without a tailored suit, making the visit prove to be much ado about nothing. Remember that they were called Love and Love Tailors? Despite all that bad work they did, they didn't make a sale, meaning that this was Love's Labours Lost. As the two couples leave, still dreaming of new suits, they realize it is a nice midsummer night. They continue to think about their suits as a midsummer night's dream, and finally decide to go someplace else.

At this point, we're halfway through the comedies, so it's a good time to review. What was under the cymbal? The Tempest video game. Who was playing it? Two Gentlemen of Verona. Who picked them up? The Merry Wives of Windsor. What did the tailors first do? Examine them Measure For Measure. How did it work out? It was a Comedy of Errors, turning into Much Ado About Nothing, resulting in Love's Labours Lost. What did the couples do after they left? Pondered their Midsummer Night's Dream.

The couples finally get an idea of where else to go, jump in the nearest canal, and swim to the Merchant of Venice (so, at this point, they really would need those new suits). This merchant makes the new suits right the first time, mentioning that the suit is just as you like it.

As they come out, we can now see that the couples are Petruchio and Kate, along with Lucentio and Bianca, from Taming of the Shrew. If you're not familiar with these characters from the play already, I can guarantee you'll never forget them after watching the Atomic Shakespeare episode of Moonlighting. Imagining Bruce Willis, Cybil Shepherd, Curtis Armstrong and Allyce Beasley as these characters will really make this image stand out!

As the Taming of the Shrew characters are finally ready for their night out, an accident happens - they all fall into a deep well! They can't get out, and the first night passes with no one coming by to help them. More nights pass, also with no one coming by. They nervously joke that all's well that ends (in the) well. Fortunately, they're saved on the twelfth night.

They're saved by none other than the Winter Warlock (or the reformed Winter Warlock, if you prefer). He mentions that he checks the well every so often, especially after what happened before. When they ask what happened before, he tells them a winter's tale. He explains that Pericles once fell in there, and was also stuck until the Twelfth Night (I repeat this part just to reinforce that play). He was finally rescued by two noble kinsmen.

Time for one last review! What was under the cymbal? Tempest, which is being played by . . . Two Gentlemen of Verona, who are married to The Merry Wives of Windsor. They go to the tailor, who takes things down Measure For Measure, and get involved in a Comedy of Errors, and this work eventually proves to be Much Ado About Nothing, resulting in Love's Labours Lost. The couple leaves with little more than A Midsummer Night's Dream, which makes them turn to The Merchant of Venice, who makes the suit As You Like It.

They come out dressed as the cast of Taming of the Shrew, ready for a night out, but they fall into a well, nervously joking that All's Well That Ends Well. They're rescued on the Twelfth Night, and learn from A Winter's Tale that this happened before to Pericles, who was rescued by The Two Noble Kinsmen.

If you practice and review that rather strange story a few times, you'll have all the Shakespearean comedies memorized! Combined with your knowledge of the tragedies and histories, you should now have the name of every Shakespeare play memorized! You should be able to get all 38 plays from the Shakespeare Quiz now!

Here are a few details I'd like to include before winding this series up. The First Folio of Shakespeare did not include the last two comedied, Pericles and The Two Noble Kinsmen. Also, memorizing this list can be an excellent starting point for learning more about Shakespeare and his plays. Now you know the names, what else can you learn about them? Why are William Shakespeare's plays so highly regarded, anyway? You're in for a great voyage of discovery, if you choose to take it.

I hope you've enjoyed this series, and found it useful and inspiring!


Shakespearean Mnemonics: Tragedies

Published on Sunday, January 27, 2008 in , , , ,

William ShakespeareHave you been practicing the Shakespearean histories? Once you're comfortable with those, you're ready to move on to the tragedies. The histories were remembered with a systematic method, but the tragedies will require a different approach.

The 12 tragedies are, in the order they appear in the First Folio of Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida, Coriolanus, Titus Andronicus, Romeo and Juliet, Timon of Athens, Julius Caesar, Macbeth, Hamlet, King Lear, Othello, Antony and Cleopatra, and Cymbeline. To remember this list, we'll be using the Link and Story systems.

First up is Troilus and Cressida. This can be made easier to remember by picturing Star Trek's Deanna Troi driving a Toyota Cressida. You could also picture her visiting the moon of Uranus, or performing with the progressive rock band, but the futuristic nature of Deanna Troi combined with a car from the past helps make the image more ridiculous and memorable.

For Coriolanus, you could picture the Roman general, but not everyone is familiar with him. As an alternative, you might use Cornholio, the classic Beavis and Butthead character (may not be suitable for some teens and pre-teens). So, you're picturing Deanna Troi driving an old Toyota Cressida (Troilus and Cressida), when she has to slam on the brakes to avoid running over Cornholio (Coriolanus).

Next, is Titus Andronicus. I use another Star Trek image here, that of Data, who is an android that comes across as somewhat uptight. After avoiding Cornholio, Troi drives her Cressida on to pick up this uptight android (or, in my imaginary version of Latin, Titus Andronicus!). They drive off to perform together in the title roles of Romeo and Juliet (Perhaps produced by Beverly Crusher?).

Note that I don't use a substitute image for Romeo and Juliet, since the play is well-known enough that characters and images from the play easily come to mind. Already, you should have linked Troilus and Cressida to Coriolanus to Titus Andronicus to Romeo and Juliet. You're already a third of the way there!

As Trio and Data are rehearsing a romantic embrace from Romeo and Juliet, they are interrupted by Timon from The Lion King, who is wearing a toga. When asked who he is, he replies that he is Timon of Athens! Timon says he is here to hide them from Julius Caesar, who is looking for them (Hey, if you can't trust a guy wearing a toga about Julius Caesar . . .)!

Timon drags Troi and Data into the only place handy, a giant model of a Macintosh Computer that is running iTunes, which is playing the video for Beth. In other words, they're hiding in a giant Mac/Beth unit. However, just as the video ends, Julius Caesar figures out where they are, and uses a small pig, not a full ham but rather a ham-lette, to pull them out.

Are you still imagining this bizarre story in your mind? You should by now be able to remember Troilus and Cressida, Coriolanus, Titus Andronicus, Romeo and Juliet, Timon of Athens, Julius Caesar, Macbeth, and Hamlet. Only 4 more images to go, and you'll be able to recall all 12 Shakespearean tragedies!

As the ham-lette pulls Troi, Timon and Data out and hands them over to Julius Caesar, he turns around to give them to a king (King Arthur? Elvis, the King of Rock and Roll? King of Diamonds? You choose!), who leers at them in a menacing manner. To escape this king's leer, the three of them throw an Othello board and pieces at him, and run out of the room. The king finds that the Othello board and pieces are sticking to him, as if glued.

He dives into the Mediterranean Sea (Why not? After all, we've been dealing with Timon of Athens and Julius Caesar of Rome). The Mediterranean proves too powerful, and sweeps this king all the way over to Egypt, where he washes ashore at the feet of Antony and Cleopatra. They are suspicious of this king, so they use a cymbal from a nearby set of drums, and draw a line in the Egyptian sand. As the king looks at this line, confused, Antony and Cleopatra hit him with the cymbal, making him fall right onto the cymbal line (Cymbeline).

That's all of the tragedies! Go over this story a few times to make sure you've got the images, and their associated plays (also, so you don't accidentally claim that Cornholio is a Shakespearean play).

Try a quick review right now. What was the first image? Troi driving a Cressida, representing Troilus and Cressida. Who did she almost run into? Cornholio, which should bring Coriolanus to mind! She avoids him, picks up Data, the Titus Andronicus, with whom Troi performs Romeo and Juliet. At the moment of the big kiss, Timon of Athens warns them to hide from Julius Caesar in a giant Mac/Beth unit. A ham-lette pulls them out, and takes them to a king. The three then escape from the king by throwing an Othello board at him. The Othello board and pieces stick, so this king washes them off by swimming over to Egpyt, where he runs into Antony and Cleopatra, who promptly knock him into their cymbal line (Cymbeline). Got it?

If you want to link this list to the Shakespearean histories you learned in the previous post, you might picture J. R. Henry selling the Cressida to Deanna Troi. Once you think you've got it, try the Shakespeare Quiz, and you should be able to get a score of at least 22 by naming all the histories and all the tragedies!

I'll wind up both January and the Shakespearean Mnemonics series in my next post by teaching you his 16 comedies!


Shakespearean Mnemonics: Histories

Published on Thursday, January 24, 2008 in , , , ,

William ShakespeareWhile playing the Shakespeare Quiz from Sporcle.com's games section, I managed to work out my own mnemonics for remembering all of his plays. Shakespeare wrote three different types of plays: histories, tragedies and comedies. I'll teach you these mnemonics over three posts, starting with this one on the histories.

The mnemonics I'll be teaching, for the most part, don't require any knowledge of the plays themselves. If you're familiar with any or all of the plays, you can embellish the mnemonics with those scenes and/or characters.

The Shakespearean histories consist of King John, Richard II, Richard III, 1 Henry IV, 2 Henry IV, Henry V, 1 Henry VI, 2 Henry VI, 3 Henry VI and Henry VIII. All those names and numbers would seem to make it difficult, but they will actually make it easier to remember!

There's only three different names to remember: John, Richard and Henry. I remember this as a name, John Richard Henry, or J. R. Henry, for short. That's simple enough, but how about the numbers?

Fortunately, there are some simple rules to remember. First, each Roman numeral, I through VIII (1 through 8), is only used once, if you consider King John to be John I. Second, the number VII (7) is never used. Now, we can move on to remembering which numbers go with which names.

We'll proceed through the names in the order we've remembered them, first John, then Richard, then Henry. John is in the first position, so there's only one John. Since he's the first, he also doesn't have a number, so just remember him as King John.

Richard is in the second position, so we can remember that there are two Richards. We already have a king for I (1), so the two Richards must be Richard II and Richard III.

All the remaining numbers, IV through VIII (4 through 8), without VII (7), are Henrys. At this point, you've got all of the histories down with a little practice. However, if you want to be more technically correct, two of the Henrys are multi-part plays. Henry IV is in 2 parts, and Henry VI is in 3 parts. This is easy to remember, as they're both even, and they both have a number of parts equal to half their respective king's number (4/2 = 2 parts, 6/2=3 parts). Just remember that Henry VIII doesn't have 4 parts.

Practice the histories a few times in your mind, and then test yourself at the Shakespeare Quiz when you think you've got it. In my next post, I'll teach the tragedies.


Mental Ladders

Published on Sunday, January 20, 2008 in , ,

Prove Your LogicWhat, you may very well ask, is a mental ladder? Just as with a physical ladder, you proceed from one step to next until you get to the top. If you get stuck on a particular step, you either stay on that step or move back down. In the case of mental ladders, however, the steps are puzzles to be figured out.

I mentioned a math-based mental ladder last month, called The Brain Tower, in which you figure out the answer, and use that to create a URL that, if correct, takes you to the next puzzle.

If you prefer logic puzzles, then you should definitely try Prove Your Logic. This Flash-based game has 25 levels of logic problems. Some of them are classics, yet many were completely new to me. I like the way this one is woven as a story, and is one of the few that occasionally give you more than one chance to answer.

Mental ladders can get very creative. In the Brain Drain Game (Flash), you're presented with a screen, and minimal hints. From there, you have to figure out not only how to solve that level, but what the object of the level is in the first place!

Another creative approach is Hacking, which is a mental ladder done as a hacker simulation. Instead of just being played in your browser, your browser itself is one of the tools used to solve each level. You'll want to make sure your HTML, javascript, graphics, php and logical thinking skills are up to par to get through this one!

Qwyzzle is a 100-step mental ladder! If your browser has a status bar, make sure it is on (usually found in the "View" menu, depending on your particular browser), as you'll occasionally need the hints presented in it. The answers to the puzzles are of the general knowledge variety, so the more familiar you are with various celebrities, phrases, trivia and so on, the better you'll tend to do.

Enjoy these ladders, and I hope to see you at the top!


Still More Quick Snippets

Published on Thursday, January 17, 2008 in , , , , , ,

LinksOK, class. It's time to sit down in your seats, and look forward to today's links:

* Our first subject is 20th century history. Your assignment is to study Billy Joel's We Didn't Start The Fire. Have you studied? Good, then it's time for your history quiz! If you didn't do as well as you hoped, I suggest reviewing notes on the video. Alternatively, you could just move on to the history of 2007, courtesy of JibJab.

* The next subject is physics. We'll start simply with xavierenigma's game Next Physics, which is a little like a sandbox for physics. Just sketch any shape anywhere, especially trying to create levers and the like, and see the effects of physics on your sketches! Ready for more advances physics? Good, because you'll need to compensate for gravitational pull in Gravity Pods. Aim, shoot, and try and work your way around obstacles with the effects of gravity!

* It's time to move on to foreign language class. First, review the basics of learning a new language, which I discussed last April. If you learn best on your own, try learning a new language via podcasts. If you instead learn better with the help of others, you might prefer one of the social networking language sites, such as babbel, livemocha, mango or myngle! You can review on many of the sites, but there's also the flashcard programs I mentioned here, here and here.

* Let's wrap this up with some lessons in logic. Those of you who enjoyed my recent article on Mastermind will be interested in a different approach to the game, taught interactively by Alex Bogomolny and Don Greenwell. Connoisseurs of classic puzzles will enjoy Mental Floss' article on Rubik's Cube variations, and Mathematrix's articles on that and other classics. In Building Houses, you have to construct a structure given 3 flat views and a limited number of blocks. For Mac OS X users, there's also a free offline version called POV.

I see by the clock on the wall that class is coming to an end. Those of you who still want to stay in and explore can check out some of the toys around the room, such as the coin jar calculator and the marble adding machine:


Genius on TV

Published on Sunday, January 13, 2008 in , , , , ,

Numb3rsCertainly, you can learn enough feats from this site and its links to present yourself as a genius. Just how are geniuses presented, anyway? I thought it might be fun to look back at how TV has presented their genius characters.

To help you understand these types, many of the links below have links to one or more free full online episodes of their respective shows, which I've marked with (fe) next to their names.

* Professor: This is the classic genius caricature. Whenever the Professor is faced with a problem, his intellect is able to devise an ingenious way to solve the problem. Note that the Professor type is usually portrayed with minor emotional qualities, and is a neutral character who often helps settle disputes. As long the other characters around them understand these quirks, they get along fine with others.This category is named after the Professor from Gilligan's Island (fe), but would also include Star Trek's Mr. Spock, CSI's Gil Grissom (fe), Charlie Eppes of Numb3rs (fe), and MacGyver.

* TV Genius: The TV Genius would be the Professor type taken to extremes. Instead of simply having minor emotional qualities, they are presented as the quiet, maladjusted type. Interacting with other people is very difficult to them, even to the point of being baffling, but dealing with numerous analytical details is simple and fascinating for them, as if they were borderline autistic. They're often impossibly smart to the point that they can handle all branches of science with equal brilliance. Austin James in Probe (fe), Back To The Future's Doc Brown, and most of the cast of Frasier would fit here.

* Teen Genius: Unlike the previous types who tend to have some difficulties in dealing with people, the Teen Genius has fewer odd quirks, except for the natural problems that come with being a teenager. While Doogie Howser, M.D. (fe) is probably the first example to come to mind, there is also the four main characters of Whiz Kids (fe), Growing Pains' Carol Seaver (fe), and Willow on Buffy, The Vampire Slayer (fe).

* Insufferable Genius: This type frequently boasts of their amazing knowledge, and seems to come across as a know-it-all at first. Then, the other characters learn that this character really is as good as he says, but usually continue to regret the boasting. Many of you are probably already thinking of House (fe), but M*A*S*H's Winchester and Hercule Poirot are also classic examples of this.

* Genius Ditz: Reconciling opposites often makes for interesting characters, and applying that to geniuses gives us the Genius Ditz. These are often characters who have been originally presented as not being too bright, but are actually brilliant in one particular field. Deep Space Nine's Rom had a great talent for engineering. This type of genius is often used in kid's shows, such as the Electric Company's Fargo North, Decoder (fe).

* Genius Bruiser: The Genius Bruiser is another attempt to get away from the standard genius stereotype. When first introduced, they're thought of as a bully or a muscular brute. Later, it's discovered that they also have a brainy side, usually manifesting as some specialized geeky ability or interest. The X-Men's Dr. Henry "Beast" McCoy, and, surprisingly, B.A. Baracus of the A-Team (fe), who was occasionally shown repairing and developing electronic gadgets, are classic examples.

These, of course, aren't the only ways geniuses are portrayed on TV, only the most frequently used. Thankfully, newer approaches are being developed, too. For example, Psych (fe), features a character, Shawn Spencer, who is skilled at observation and deduction, but the police originally think this knowledge is so good, he must've been part of the crime. To keep from being prosecuted, Shawn has to keep up a facade of being psychic.

One of the best shows on TV for comparing approaches to smart characters would have to be Head of the Class (fe). This show focuses on a group of advanced placement New York high school students, and their teacher's unusual approach to education. With so many smart characters in one place, it's often interesting to see how they made the characters so different from each other, as well as the kind of challenges they faced.

Do you have any favorite geniuses from TV? I'd love to hear who it is and what you liked about their approach in the comments!


Election Time

Published on Thursday, January 10, 2008 in , , , , , , ,

Vote Smart buttonIf you've seen anything of the news from the US, you can't miss that an election year has started. With so many people talking about it, the US elections can be a great theme for demonstrations.

The simplest approach to adopting this as a theme is to adapt routines you already do. If you do demonstrations with playing cards, imagine the possibilities with 2008 election-themed cards, in Republican, Democrat and Independent versions!

Another approach is to work up a demonstration that has a natural tie-in to the election. Memorizing all the US Presidents is a natural approach, which many have done with the help of the Animaniacs (made in 1995, so it stops at Bill Clinton):

If you've practiced the Peg/Major System, you can go above and beyond just being able to name them in order. Imagine being able to name the years in which each president took office! Of course, learning the US states and capitals can be tied in easily , as well. Once you get them down, you can make sure they stay in your mind by quizzing yourself regularly.

Math principles can also make for some fun and amazing election demonstrations. What's known in magic as the Miraskill Principle is a powerful mathematical concept. If you use the variation from the Point Spread routine in Simon Aronson's book Simply Simon, it's easier to see how it can be adapted to an election theme. As a matter of fact, Paul Flory and Gary Ouellet have done just that in their Election Night routine. The mathematical principle behind these two routines is front and center in the routine, but it so counterintuitive that the result is baffling.

Another counterintuitive mathematical principle that's been adapted to an election presentation is that of nontransitivity. While it's most commonly associated with dice, Rock/Paper/Scissors, and Penny's Game, it can also be adapted for use with an election theme. Robert Neale published his routine, Election Game, in the February 1973 issue of Pallbearers Review. It can be done as a psychic routine, but I've adapted it for use as an apparent memory and logic demonstration, too.

Despite the dreariness that's usually associated with elections, I hope I've given you the idea that there is also fun to be had with them.


Fun Calendars

Published on Sunday, January 06, 2008 in , , , , , , ,

Human CalendarNow that you know some fun feats with calendars, how about taking some fun approaches to calendars themselves?

The human calendar, as you can see to your left, is a unique online calendar. It features pictures of people holding cards with various information, such as the date, month and day of the week. The current date is the only one where the person is looking forward. That person is very easy to spot, since every other person in the calendar is looking towards them. While I like the full version on their front page, they also have options for adding a smaller version to your website, blog or social network page, and it's as easy as posting your favorite video!

Of course, I can never spend more than a few paragraphs away from anything dealing with math or memory, so I'll now turn to Werner Randelshofer's Rubik's Cube page. What does this have to do with calendars? Go to the Virtual Cube page, scroll down the Virtual Cube menu, and select Calendar Cubes. When you do that, a menu of languages will appear below. Select your preferred language, and a virtual Rubik's Calendar Cube will appear. Instead of trying to solve the entire cube, as you normally would, the idea of a calendar cube is just to get the current day month and date on one face, perfect for people who can only solve one side of the cube anyway.

Would you prefer to try a calendar cube in real life? While they don't sell them ready-made, it is possible to make one. First, you need the pattern for the cube design, which is provided at the bottom of the text next to each virtual calendar cube. You'll also need a blank Rubik's Cube, and some customizable sticker sheets. Print out the designs from the calendar cube page on the sheets, and apply them to the blank cube, and you're set to go!

About 2 years ago, I mentioned the idea of having yourself blindfolded, with a calendar cube in hand. Someone gives you a date, including the year, and you solve one face of the cube to show the proper date, including the day of the week! You know the day of the week for the date before you even start working the cube, of course. As long as you have a perpetual calendar so that they can verify the date, you could turn this into quite a feat!

How about some different approaches to real-world calendars? At Marlie's Creative Universe, she includes a wide variety of calendars that you can make. There are simple paper calendars for a table or your computer monitor, and even calendars made from more unusual materials, like 3.5" floppy disks or CD cases.

My favorite of all of them, however, would have to be Marlie's designs for dodecahedron calendar. What better use for a 12-sided object than a calendar? She includes designs for 2008, but it is possible to make this calendar for any year you want. As Marlie mentions, she was originally inspired by Ole Arntzen's 12-Sided Calendar page. This page will generate a PDF or Postscript file for you in many languages, and almost any year. If you don't care for all the cutting and gluing that the dodecahedron requires, you can also make it in the form of a rhombic dodecahedron, which is made only by folding!

Speaking of generating calendars online, there are numerous sites where you can create customizable calendars, and download them as PDFs. Two of the best I've found are the Somacon Calendar Generator and PDFCalendar.com. Both of these give you more control over the design of the calendar than most other online calendar generators that I've seen.

Given all these unusual shapes and materials, you might think the simple business card calendar, such as you might get for free from your bank, can't offer much in the way of novelty or originality. However, you would be wrong. A Mexican blogger by the name of Eliazar Cardenas noticed that his mother was having trouble reading those small business card year calendars. His solution? Host an infodesign challenge to find better ways to fit an entire year on a business card. Just keep scrolling down to see the amazing variety of ideas and designs that resulted! If you enjoyed design #16, you can find out more about it at thumbcalendar.com.

That's all for now. I'll post again on Thursday, the . . . uh . . . darn. Does anybody have a calendar handy?


Mental Math Tricks

Published on Thursday, January 03, 2008 in , , , ,

calculatorFirst, a quick thank you to Rick Carruth and his Magic Roadshow newsletter for prominently mentioning Grey Matters in their recent newsletter! As Rick suggests, explore the site! The tabs at the top and the rightmost column, both featured on almost every page, are the best places to start exploring it.

One way to set yourself apart, whether in performance or in real life, is to be able to do math quickly in your head. While I've posted on this topic numerous times before, the increasing popularity of mental math methods has lead me to post an update.

Over at the list universe, one post that has copied on numerous blogs is 10 Easy Arithmetic Tricks (Hat tip to lifehacker for helping me locate the original). Here, you can learn how to quickly square certain numbers, multiply, subtract and even work wither percentages! I'm linking to the original, as opposed to simply re-posting it, because there are more hidden gems of mental math in the comments that follow.

If you're looking for shortcuts that are a little more useful in daily life, Mental Math Shortcuts show you quick tricks for time, distance, money and general tricks that come in handy. The BetterExplained blog, as a matter of fact, has a great series of math posts. This blog is also the source of the impressive Instacalc calculator that I first mentioned and embedded in my Geek Logik post.

If those first two posts have whetted your appetite for mental math, how about complete courses in mental math? Mental Math Master offers a complete set of free tutorials, many of which include practice exercises, that cover all the math basics.

The most extensive list of shortcuts for particular situations that you're ever likely to see, though, is BEATCALC ("Beat The Calculator"). BEATCALC is constantly expanding, and currently features 600 shortcuts! This site works best as a compliment to other courses, such as Mental Math Master. Once you understand basic approaches to mental math and have an idea of why they work, the shortcuts on BEATCALC become easy to understand, and you can even start developing your own!

Naturally, you can find plenty of information about mental math here on Grey Matters. Look through the math category of this blog and the technique category of the video blog, as well as the Mental Gym for starters. The Grey Matters store features many books on math and mathemagic that are helpful, too.

The real key to success of mental math is practice! Besides the workout section of the Mental Gym, you can also test your skills at the University of Saskatchewan's mental math drills.

Even if you don't learn all the approaches, just getting a few of the skills mastered can be a big boost to your education and self-esteem. Explore these pages and have fun!