'Human Calculator' uses math to entertain and teach

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Posted on September 9, 2013 at 11:50 AM

Updated Wednesday, Sep 11 at 7:24 AM

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PHOENIX -- He's known around the world as the "Human Calculator." Scott Flansburg has been teaching and entertaining people with his astonishing math skills for more than 20 years.

Flansburg can perform high-speed addition, subtraction, multiplication, square roots and even cube roots. Besides demonstrating his own skills, he wants to show others that they already have the ability to perform seemingly difficult math problems without a calculator.

The author and entertainer has been speaking to Valley athletes, including the Arizona Diamondbacks. "I was a baseball player as a kid," he told Scott Pasmore on Monday's Good Morning Arizona. "So it was a dream come true on both levels, as an athlete and a mathlete."

Flansburg says baseball is actually about the number nine. "There are nine innings," he points out. "There are nine guys on the field. There are nine guys in the batting order. A baseball is nine inches in circumference. It's 90 feet from base to base. Nine plus zero is nine."

He says most people think in terms of tens. "We're in a ten-based world," Flansburg tells us. "We're taught to think, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. And that's what throws us all off. That's not how numbers are work. It's really zero through nine."

When he spoke to the Diamondbacks, he told them his "number nine" theories as well. "They're nine games out of the wild card. They've won 72 games. And if they win nine of of ten games, two times in a row, that will put them at 90 wins."

Flansburg says we shouldn't be afraid of math. "It seems like it's become socially accepted to be bad at math," he says. "When we were growing up, it was illiteracy that was the big deal. And now that's not a problem; we've taken care of that. We've made a focus of illiteracy, and we put America's teachers on call and said let's get rid of this problem, and it's happening. Now we have a problem called 'innumeracy', which is illiteracy in math. I'm not saying we're teaching math wrong. I'm saying there's one or two simple things we could be doing in the beginning to help kids understand numbers easier."

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