Resources for the clumsy mathematician
January 19, 2018 12:00 AM   Subscribe

I want to be less clumsy with numbers / be more fluid with maths - are there any games / websites / drills that could help with that?

I am quite interested in working for the financial sector in a few years time, and I am really concerned about my quantitative skills. I'm okay with tricky mathematical concepts, but currently I need to write everything down and go through each step visually to get accurate answers. I'm worried about this looking bad in interviews, and want to be quick in the way that consultants and bankers are quick with maths - so for now I am interested in the more practical types of maths than say the more theoretical stuff.

Are there any exercises / workbooks / games / apps / websites / drills I could spend e.g. 10 minutes on each day which would help me become better at arithmetic or just generally become more graceful with numbers?

Thank you!!
posted by Crookshanks_Meow to Work & Money (6 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

How To Calculate Quickly
posted by thelonius at 1:48 AM on January 19

Khan Academy is exactly what you’re looking for. You go on “missions” to develop “mastery” of mathematical concepts. It is designed for children, which means it is fun and super gamefied.

I have no real need to do math in my life, but I binge on easy math problems as a quick “hey, I’m not that dumb” fix at least once a week. And when I say easy, I mean easy—you can do math problems that just involve counting mice in a cartoon. Enjoy!
posted by suncages at 6:39 AM on January 19 [1 favorite]

My wife would say, you should learn the Abacus. Part of that is Mental Calculation, which means picturing an abacus in your mind and manipulating the beads mentally.
posted by Rash at 6:44 AM on January 19

I'm going to go against the grain and say don't worry about it too much. The real world is too complicated for most people to handle in their head. The world is full of forms to follow, tables to look up and computer programs to do the hard math. Check out people don't even need to know how to calculate change any more. Nobody figures the APR for an adjustable rate mortgage in his head.

Stuff that you can do in your head is probably job-specific and you will learn it as you go.

By all means, try some of the options suggested above, but know thyself and get comfortable with what works for you. Make up some excuses if you feel the need. "I always do this on the computer so I can print it out for the customer to look at."
posted by SemiSalt at 7:25 AM on January 19 [1 favorite]

Seconding semisalt, but one thing that is a useful skill to learn for those situations is estimation. I am a disaster at all but the simplest out-loud, on-demand arithmetic and other basic math puzzles*, but I can give you a ballpark number for your adjustable rate mortgage payment with no trouble at all.

I'm not sure how you practice that skill other than just trying to use it in real life (my grade school was big on estimation as a way to check your formal answers to math problems, so you could start there), but it's usually more impressive to be able to break down and estimate an answer to a complex problem than to be able to do showy but basic math on demand.

So, instead of stressing about math, think more about how to illustrate that you're a clear and logical thinker when you answer a problem -- frame the problem clearly, explain your assumptions and walk people through your steps. The other trick is that you can totally make the numbers easy if you control the example you're giving (e.g. assuming the home loan is for 100k at 5% much better than 300k at 7% interest for ease of calculation).

*I have an honors math degree and have gotten hired for jobs that require a lot of math, but arithmetic on demand is just not my thing. So, don't despair! Learn a good, nerdy math joke or two if you think you'll need to defuse any math-related tension.
posted by snaw at 1:29 PM on January 19

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