Arthur Benjamin

Mathematician and magician

Secrets of Mental Math
63 minutes, 28.9mb, recorded 2007-03-26
Arthur Benjamin

Arthur Benjamin is both a professor of mathematics and a magician. After wowing the audience with some amazing feats of calculation, he is happy to reveal his secrets. Seemingly impossible problems can often be broken down into more tractable steps and phonetic codes that can be held in memory and processed quickly. Benjamin explores these steps, giving examples of how he is able to multiply large numbers together, or pinpoint the day of the week of any birthday in any year.

While he clearly has an extraordinary gift in the realm of mathematics, Benjamin also considers a lot of his numerical talent (and prodigious talent in general) to be gained through hours of practice. He describes the some practical drills and techniques for left to right calculation. He also explores visual, auditory and mental imagery that can assist in holding and manipulating large numbers in your head. Certain tricks work better for some than others, depending on individual traits and learning styles. If you've been wondering how to square 73, 542 in three easy mental steps, be sure to listen through to the end of the show.


Arthur Benjamin grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, and earned his B.S. at Carnegie Mellon University in 1983 and his Ph.D. in mathematical sciences at Johns Hopkins University in 1989. Since then he has been a professor of mathematics at Harvey Mudd College, in Claremont, California, where he has served as department chair. He has written three books and is co-editor of Math Horizons magazine, published by the Mathematical Association of America (MAA). In 2000, the MAA awarded him the Haimo Prize for Distinguished Teaching.

Arthur Benjamin is also a professional magician, and frequently performs at the Magic Castle in Hollywood. He has demonstrated and explained his calculating talents to audiences all over the world and has appeared on numerous television and radio programs, including The Today Show, CNN, and National Public Radio. He has been featured in Scientific American, Omni, Discover, People, Esquire, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Reader's Digest. In 2005, Reader's Digest called him "America's Best Math Whiz."

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