Awesome Quora #20: How do you visualize mathematical concepts in your mind?


I read Quora questions/answers regularly and I bookmark a lot of them.

So in the spirit of redistributing and having an easier access to my favorite stories over there, I decided to publish them on a daily basis here.

The following question and answer were the best I glanced over for the day.

How do you visualize mathematical concepts in your mind?

The following answer is by Timothy Singleton to this particular question.

I used to vision objects to help me but, over time, I found a method that works best for me without the use of a pictured object at all.

If I am adding together 455 and 177, for instance, I will actually add 455 plus 200 because round numbers are easier to deal with. Then I subtract 23.

Same with subtraction. For 455 minus 177, I will actually subtract 200 and this time add 23.

This lets you deal with some pretty large numbers quickly and works well with handling change from transactions as well.

For multiplication, say I need to multiply 144 times twelve. Again, it is easier to deal with round numbers. I multiply 144 times ten, which is easy. Just add a zero and it is 1440. Then I add 144 twice more.

For division, 177 divided by 12. I will multiply the 12 by a figure that I know will get me close, in this case ten. Ten times 12 is 120. Then, I just have to determine how many times 12 goes into the remaining 57, which is 4, with a remainder of 9. Division is the hardest and takes me a bit longer than the others.

Overall, this sytem lets me handle pretty big and complex numbers in my head.

Of course, don’t even ask about Algebra. For me, that is like trying to speak Japanese.

The above answer is by Timothy Singleton to this particular question.

Side Notes

I remember being mind blown by this answer.

I started putting it in use right away and after about 2-3 weeks of practice, I feel more productive in things I do that are related to calculations.

No more Googling some easy to medium multiplications and divisions.

This is the kind of stuff I would have preferred to be taught in school.


I hope you enjoyed this answer as much as I did.

I really recommend you check out other answers to this question on Quora. I may have read it a long time ago and some new and even better answers may have popped up since.

If you don’t use Quora, feel free to leave a comment down below about this answer.