Mental calculator

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Leonhard Euler was a prominent mental calculator

Human calculator is a term to describe a person with a prodigious ability in some area of mental calculation (such as adding, subtracting, multiplying or dividing large numbers).

The world's best mental calculators are invited every two years to compete for the Mental Calculation World Cup. On September 30, 2018, 15-year old Tomohiro Iseda of Japan, succeeded 27-year-old Yuki Kimura of Japan, as the current world champion. (2018-2020). Tomohiro Iseda is the third Japanese person to win the Cup, after Naofumi Ogasawara (2012) and Yuki Kimura (2016). Shakuntala Devi from India has been often mentioned on the Guinness World Records. Neelakantha Bhanu Prakash from India has been often mentioned on the Limca Book of Records for racing past the speed of a calculator in addition.[1] Srilankan-Malaysian performer Yaashwin Sarawanan was the runner-up in 2019 Asia's Got Talent.

In 2005 a group of researchers led by Michael W. O'Boyle, an American psychologist previously working in Australia and now at Texas Tech University, has used MRI scanning of blood flow during mental operation in computational prodigies. These math prodigies have shown increases in blood flow to parts of the brain responsible for mathematical operations during a mental rotation task that are greater than the typical increases.[2]

Mental calculators were in great demand in research centers such as CERN before the advent of modern electronic calculators and computers. See, for instance, Steven B. Smith's 1983 book The Great Mental Calculators, or the 2016 book Hidden Figures[3] and the film adapted from it.

Champion mental calculators[edit]

Every two years the world's best mental calculators are invited to participate in The Mental Calculation World Cup, an international competition that attempts to find the world's best mental calculator, and also the best at specific types of mental calculation, such as multiplication or calendar reckoning. The top three final placings from each of the world cups that have been staged to date are shown below.

First Mental Calculation World Cup (Annaberg-Buchholz, 2004)[edit]

1 United Kingdom Robert Fountain
2 Germany Jan van Koningsveld
3 Spain Alberto Coto García

Second Mental Calculation World Cup (Gießen, 2006)[edit]

1 United Kingdom Robert Fountain
2 Germany Jan van Koningsveld
3 Germany Gert Mittring

Third Mental Calculation World Cup (Leipzig, 2008)[edit]

1 Spain Alberto Coto
2 Germany Jan van Koningsveld
3 Peru Jorge Arturo Mendoza Huertas

Fourth Mental Calculation World Cup (Magdeburg, 2010)[edit]

1 India Priyanshi Somani
2 Spain Marc Jornet Sanz
2 Spain Alberto Coto

Fifth Mental Calculation World Cup (Gießen, 2012)[edit]

1 Japan Naofumi Ogasawara
2 Malaysia Hua Wei Chan
3 Germany Jan van Koningsveld

Sixth Mental Calculation World Cup (Dresden, 2014)[edit]

1 India Granth Thakkar
2 Spain Marc Jornet Sanz
3 Japan Chie Ishikawa

Seventh Mental Calculation World Cup (Bielefeld, 2016)[edit]

1 Japan Yuki Kimura
2 Japan Tetsuya Ono
3 South Korea Lee Jeonghee

Eighth Mental Calculation World Cup (Wolfsburg, 2018)[edit]

1 Japan Tomohiro Iseda
2 Japan Hiroto Ihara
3 Germany Wenzel Grüß

The Mind Sports Olympiad has staged an annual world championships since 1998.

MSO mental calculation gold medal winners[edit]

1998 United Kingdom Robert Fountain
1999 United Kingdom George Lane
2000 United Kingdom Robert Fountain
2001 United Kingdom John Rickard
2002 United Kingdom George Lane
2003 United Kingdom George Lane
2004 Germany Gert Mittring
2005 Germany Gert Mittring
2006 Germany Gert Mittring
2007 Germany Gert Mittring
2008 United Kingdom George Lane
2009 Germany Gert Mittring
2010 Germany Gert Mittring
2011 Germany Gert Mittring
2012 Germany Gert Mittring
2013 United Kingdom George Lane
2014 Germany Gert Mittring
2015 Germany Gert Mittring
2016 United Kingdom Chris Bryant
2017 United Kingdom Chris Bryant
2018 Germany Wenzel Grüß
2019 Germany Wenzel Grüß
2020 India Neelakantha Bhanu Prakash Jonnalagadda

The Mind Sports Organisation recognizes five grandmasters of mental calculation: Robert Fountain (1999), George Lane (2001), Gert Mittring (2005), Chris Bryant (2017) and Wenzel Grüß (2019), and one international master, Andy Robertshaw (2008).

Mental calculators (deceased)[edit]

Mental calculators in fiction[edit]


In Frank Herbert's novel Dune, specially trained mental calculators known as Mentats have replaced mechanical computers completely. Several important supporting characters in the novel, namely Piter De Vries and Thufir Hawat, are Mentats. Paul Atreides was originally trained as one without his knowledge. However, these Mentats do not specialize in mathematical calculations, but in total recall of many different kinds of data. For example, Thufir Hawat is able to recite various details of a mining operation, including the number of various pieces of equipment, the people to work them, the profits and costs involved, etc. In the novel he is never depicted as doing actual academic mathematical calculations. Mentats were valued for their capacity as humans to store data, because "thinking machines" are outlawed.


In Roald Dahl's novel Matilda, the lead character is portrayed having exceptional computational skills as she computes her father's profit without the need for paper computations. During class (she is a first-year elementary school student), she does large-number multiplication problems in her head almost instantly.


In the 1988 movie Rain Man, Raymond Babbitt, who has savant syndrome, can mentally calculate large numbers, amongst other abilities.

Andrew Jackson "Slipstick" Libby is a calculating prodigy in Robert A. Heinlein's Sci-Fi story Methuselah's Children.

In the USA Network legal drama Suits, the main character, Mike Ross, is asked to multiply considerably large numbers in his head to impress two girls, and subsequently does so.

In Haruki Murakami's novel Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, a class of mental calculators known as Calcutecs perform cryptography in a sealed-off portion of their brains, the results of which they are unable to access from their normal waking consciousness.

In the Fox television show Malcolm in the Middle, Malcolm Wilkerson displays astounding feats of automatic mental calculation, which causes him to fear his family will see him as a "freak", and causes his brother to ask, "Is Malcolm a robot?".

In the 1991 movie Little Man Tate, Fred Tate in the audience blurts out the answer during a mental calculation contest.

In the 1990s NBC TV sitcom NewsRadio, reporter/producer Lisa Miller can mentally calculate products, quotients, and square roots effortlessly and almost instantly, on demand.

In the 1997 Sci-Fi thriller Cube, one of the prisoners, Kazan, appears to be mentally disabled, but is revealed later in the film to be an autistic savant who is able to calculate prime factors in his head.

In 1998 Darren Aronofsky's film Pi, Maximillian Cohen is asked a few times by a young child with a calculator to do large multiplications and divisions in his head, which he promptly does, correctly.

In 1998 film Mercury Rising, a 9-year-old autistic savant with prodigious math abilities cracks a top secret government code.

In the 2006 film Stranger than Fiction, the main character, Harold Crick, is able to perform rapid arithmetic at the request of his co-workers.

In the 2009 Japanese animated film Summer Wars, the main character, mathematical genius Kenji Koiso, is able to mentally break purely mathematical encryption codes generated by the OZ virtual world's security system. He can also mentally calculate the day of the week a person was born, based on their birthday.

In another Fox television show, Fringe, in the third episode of the third season, Olivia and her fellow Fringe Division members encounter an individual with severe cognitive impairment who has been given experimental nootropics and as a result has become a mathematical genius. The individual is able to calculate hundreds of equations simultaneously, which he leverages to avoid being returned to his original state of cognitive impairment.

In the 2012 film Safe, a female child math genius is kidnapped to be used by the Chinese Triad.

In the 2014 Sci-Fi novel Double Bill by S. Ayoade, Devi Singh, a mental calculator, is one of the 70 lucky children who win a trip to the moon.

In the 2016 film The Accountant, a high-functioning autistic tracks insider financial deceptions for numerous criminal organizations.

In the 2017 film Gifted, an intellectually gifted seven-year-old, Mary Adler, becomes the subject of a custody battle between her uncle and grandmother.

In 2020, an eponymous film Shakuntala Devi on the life of Indian mathematician, writer, astrologer and mental calculator Shakuntala Devi.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Adke, Arti. "I love to be quicker than anyone else, Hans India, May 2019".
  2. ^ O'Boyle, Michael W.; et al. (October 2005). "Mathematically gifted male adolescents activate a unique brain network during mental rotation". Cognitive Brain Research. Amsterdam: Elsevier. 25 (2): 583–587. doi:10.1016/j.cogbrainres.2005.08.004. PMID 16150579.
  3. ^ Shetterly, Margot Lee (2016). Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Who Helped Win the Space Race. William Morrow and Company. pp. 115. ISBN 978-0062363596. Some of the women were capable of lightning-fast mental math, rivaling their mechanical calculating machines for speed and accuracy. Others, like Dorothy Hoover and Doris Cohen, had highly refined understandings of theoretical math, differentiating their way through nested equations ten pages deep with nary an error in sign. The best of the women made names for themselves for accuracy, speed, and insight.
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-02-16. Retrieved 2007-02-16.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ Schreiner, Samuel Jr (November 1976). "Meet the Human Computer". Reader's Digest.

External links[edit]