Watching kids do lightning fast mental math is both mesmerizing and mind-blowing

Their finger twitching looks random, but WOW is it impressive.

Digamarthi Sri Ramakanth/Wikimedia Commons

2003 UCMAS National Abacus & Mental Arithmetic Competition

In the age of calculators and smartphones, it's become less necessary to do math in your head than it used to be, but that doesn't mean mental math is useless. Knowing how to calculate in your head can be handy, and if you're lucky enough to learn mental abacus skills from a young age, it can be wicked fast as well.

Video of students demonstrating how quickly they can calculate numbers in their head are blowing people's minds, as the method is completely foreign for many of us. The use of a physical abacus isn't generally taught in the United States, other than perhaps a basic introduction to how it works. But precious few of us ever get to see how the ancient counter gets used for mental math.

The concept is simple and can be taught from a young age, but it takes a bit of time and practice to perfect. Watch what it looks like for basic addition and subtraction at lightning speed, though:

If you don't know what they're doing, it looks like students are just randomly flicking their fingers and wrists. But they are actually envisioning the abacus while they move their fingers, as if they were actually using one.

There are various methods of finger calculations that make use of abacus concepts. Watch another method that uses both hands in action:

Even very young children can calculate large sums very quickly using these abacus-based mental math methods. Watch these little superstars add two-digit to four-digit numbers like it's nothing.

How do they do it?

Much of the skill here requires a solid understanding of how an abacus is used to calculate and lots of practice with the physical movements of calculating with it. That's not exactly simple to explain, as it take a couple of years of practice using an abacus—for these mental calculations, specifically the Japanese soroban abacus—to gain the skills needed to be able to calculate quickly. BBC Global shares how such practices are taught in Japan, not only for mental math but for overall cognitive memory:

Abacus mental math programs online recommend learning it between the ages of 5 to 13. It is possible to learn at older ages, but it might take longer to master compared to younger students.

But if there's a finger method you want to try for addition and subtraction up to 99, one that's simple and quick to learn is called chisanbop, in which ones are counted on one hand and 10s are counted on the other. Here's an explainer video that shows how it works:


Most of us carry calculators around in our pockets with us at all time, so such practices may feel like a waste of time. But learning new skills that tax our brain is like a workout for our mind, so it's not a bad idea to give things like this a spin. Even if we don't learn to calculate large numbers in the blink of an eye, we can at least exercise our mental muscles to keep our brains healthier. And who knows, maybe we'll get a party trick or two out of it as well.

Photo via Canva, @WhattheADHD/Twitter

The 'bionic reading' font is designed to help keep you focused and read faster.

Reading is a fundamental tool of learning for most people, which is why it's one of the first things kids learn in school and why nations set literacy goals.

But even those of us who are able to read fluently might sometimes struggle with the act of reading itself. Perhaps we don't read as quickly as we wish we could or maybe our minds wander as our eyes move across the words. Sometimes we get to the end of a paragraph and realize we didn't retain anything we just read.

People with focus or attention issues can struggle with reading, despite having no actual reading disabilities. It can be extremely frustrating to want to read something and have no issues with understanding the material, yet be unable to keep your mind engaged with the text long enough to get "into" what you're reading.

But what if there were a font that could help you stay focused? That could help you not only read faster but better retain what you've just read?

That's what the creators of Bionic Reading claim is possible with their font tool."Bionic Reading revises texts so that the most concise parts of words are highlighted," the Swiss company's website reads. "This guides the eye over the text and the brain remembers previously learned words more quickly."

Give it a try:


The gist is that our eyes don't need to focus on the entire word because our brains can fill in the rest for us. By bolding the first part of the word, we're more quickly able to move from word to word.

"Bionic Reading aims to play a supporting role in the absorption of volume text," states the website. "We see technological progress as an opportunity for all those who want to increase the pleasure of reading in a noisy and hectic world in a focused way and without distraction."

While there are no studies cited on this method of reading, there are plenty of anecdotes about it being helpful. The example shared by @WhattheADHD on Twitter got people's attention and many people responded with enthusiasm at how much easier the bionic reading text was for them to read.

"This is amazing! I have ADHD and I didn’t even realize that I was having trouble fixating when I read," wrote one person. "My eye latches right on to the bold face. Can’t wait to try reading a book again. It’s been all audiobooks for a while."

"It's incredible how reading this feels like finally unlocking 100% of your brain," wrote another.


However, not everyone was impressed or thrilled with the sample. Some people said that they had a harder time reading the bionic text or that it distracted or slowed them down. Both positive and negative responses came from a diverse pool of people. Some who described themselves as neurodivergent said that they loved it and some said it was harder. The same went for people who said they were neurotypical, so it's hard to say who this tool may specifically help the most. Everyone's brains work differently, and different people will find different things helpful.

Bionic reading might be a game-changer for some, but it's not the only tool of its kind. There are speed-reading programs that train you to stop reading each word and allow your brain to read visually instead of auditorily. There are also various methods of making reading easier by adjusting how your eyes move across the text.

For instance, check out this "space reading" technique:


Bionic Reading has a free text converter on its website that you can use to try out its font changes. A YouTube clip from the company also shows possibilities for how the font can be adjusted to individual preferences, making more or less of the initial letters bolded.

And again, if this doesn't work for you, then it's probably not made for you. For people who struggle with reading, something like Bionic Reading could make a huge difference.

Three cheers for technology being used to help people overcome difficulties and make learning easier and more efficient.

This article originally appeared on 5.30.22.

Uyen Ninh shares her crochet creations.

Learning a new skill takes time, patience and a willingness to not be good at something for a while. Unfortunately, that third thing often leads people to quit early in the learning process, as nobody enjoys the feeling of sucking at something.

Reframing how we view the I-suck-at-this stage is key to sticking with it, though, and one woman's video sharing her first two weeks of crocheting is a perfect example of how we can do that.

Uyen Ninh has built a social media following by sharing her cultural observances and humor as a Vietnamese woman living in Germany, but as her crocheting video shows, her appeal goes far beyond jokes about her German fiancee. The way she shares her crochet progress is positively delightful.

First, Ninh shows the first heart she made out of red yarn, which is barely discernible as a heart.

"It's the first thing I do, so it's okay," she says.

Then she shows a green flower she crocheted, which is clearly imperfect, but as she says, "you can clearly see the petals, so I count it as a win."

Then she moved on to animals, showing a "cat which looks like a fat mouse," adding, "but it's still cute," and then moving on to her dinosaurs—or "deenos," as she calls them, and finally, a "strawberry cow."



This time I am serious 😆

People loved Ninh's adorable positivity as she shared her progressively more impressive crochet creations.

"'But it's still cute!' is absolutely a mentality you've gotta embrace when learning crochet, 💗" shared one commenter.

"I love the joy with which she show it, very wholesome 😊" wrote another.

"Perseverance, practice and learning from failures will result in success eventually," shared another.

People who are experienced with the fiber arts (crocheting, knitting, etc.) said that she had progressed very quickly, which might just be because of her positive attitude toward making mistakes. Fear of failure often causes people to resist diving fully into a learning process, but when we embrace mistakes as a necessary part of the process, we free ourselves up to more effective learning.

You can follow Uyen Ninh on YouTube, TikTok and Instagram.


Jamais vu is the opposite sensation of déjà vu.

Most of us have heard of déjà vu—that strange sensation that you have already experienced something as it’s happening in the present moment. A large portion of the population, 97% according to one study, can attest that they have felt a sense of déjà vu in their lifetime.

However, we can also have the exact opposite sensation, though very few people know the name for it.

Jamais vu—which in French means “never seen,” again opposite to déjà vu meaning “already seen”—occurs when something familiar suddenly feels completely, utterly unfamiliar.

“It is the feeling that something is unreal or unusual, whilst at the same time knowing it is something you are very familiar with,” Dr. Chris Moulin, a jamais vu researcher, told “Medical News Today.”

Think about when a word you regularly use abruptly has you wondering whether or not it’s spelled correctly. Or you see a co-worker you’ve known for years that, without notice, now feels like someone you’ve never met. That uncanny “recall without recognition” sensation, when pathways in the brain become unsynced and can’t make sense between what’s new and what’s familiar, is jamais vu.

While more rare than déjà vu, jamais vu holds a lot of similarities with its more famous counterpart.

For one thing, like déjà vu, the exact causes for jamais vu are unknown. There are, however, a few theories. Some experts attribute it to chronic stress or lack of sleep, others believe it happens as the mind’s way of protecting itself from trauma, or when a person becomes distracted while trying to process information.
deja vu, jamais vu, neurology

Déjà vu and jamais vu might be opposites, but they have a lot in common.


While more rare than déjà vu, jamais vu holds a lot of similarities with its more famous counterpart.

For one thing, like déjà vu, the exact causes for jamais vu are unknown. There are, however, a few theories. Some experts attribute it to chronic stress or lack of sleep, others believe it happens as the mind’s way of protecting itself from trauma, or when a person becomes distracted while trying to process information.

For those of us who were spared of this disciplinary action in our formative years, the concept is well reflected in a small study from 2021, where six participants were given words to stare at for three minutes. After only one minute, the participants began noticing that certain letters looked “peculiar.” By the time the three minutes was up, they noted that the word stopped being a word at all, only “a collection of letters.”

jamais vu, psychology

Study participants reported letters looking peculiar are staring at them for 60 seconds.


Lastly, both déjà vu and jamais vu can happen at any time, but only last for a couple of minutes. This last part is important to note, as jamais vu can often be mistaken for dissociation or delusions. Some psychiatrists even hypothesize that there may be an overlap between the three, especially when it comes to disorienting out-of-body experiences caused by psychedelics.

But overall, jamais vu is typically a brief, temporary moment that simply washes over us and then we go about our day. If this is an everyday occurrence, however, it’s best to get a doctor’s evaluation. Otherwise, it might leave you wondering if the Matrix is real after all, but nothing more harmful than that.