Scott Flansburg, The Human Calculator on “Math Hacks Anyone Can Learn To Transform Your Math Mindset”
Welcome back to the Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast for episode #150 with Scott Flansburg[i] who Regis Philbin called “The Human Calculator[ii]” because he can mentally count faster than a calculator.
Watch this interview on YouTube here. https://youtu.be/aa8mbxvYqrc
Learn more about Scott Flansburg's online programs here.
See past episodes here. https://www.achieveit360.com/episodes/
On this episode you will learn:
✔︎ How someone with incredible math abilities has started the National Counting Bee to share his talents with students around the country.
✔︎ 2 NEW WAYS to look at numeracy and math that will change your mindset forever.
✔︎ How Scott Flansburg got into the Guinness World Book of Records for his unique mathematical abilities and what his brain scans revealed about his brain.
✔︎ Scott's vision for the future and how he plans to change the way ALL 3rd graders approach math in the future.
I'm Andrea Samadi, author, and educator from Toronto, Canada, now in Arizona, and like many of our listeners, have been fascinated with learning and understanding the science behind high performance strategies in our schools, sports, and the workplace with ideas that we can all use, understand and implement immediately. I do want to thank the listeners who have sent me messages through social media about how you are using these podcast episodes in your personal and professional lives. We are approaching our goal of hitting 200 episodes and 100,000 downloads and couldn’t do this without listeners, or high-quality guests.
Back to this episode.
After being introduced to Howard Berg[iii], who holds the Guinness World record for speed reading, I was introduced to Dave Farrow[iv], a two-time Guinness World Record holder for correctly memorizing and recalling the exact order of 59 decks of shuffled playing cards. I began to see that extraordinary results are possible, when regular people, like you and me, do certain things in a certain way. I look forward to sharing Scott Flansburg’s story, to see what strategies we can learn and implement to help us all improve our numeracy skills. Yes, he does hold the Guinness World Record for the fastest mental calculation after adding the same number to itself more times in 15 seconds, even faster than anyone could do with a calculator.
I’ve heard of the importance of developing strong numeracy skills twice already, from past guests. On episode #138,[v] Professor and Canada Research Chair in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience and Learning, Dr. Daniel Ansari, affirmed that research shows that students with weak numeracy skills are more likely to default on their mortgage payments in the future, and on episode #146[vi] Dr. Howard Rankin, an expert in Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience who spoke on the topic of “How Not to Think” agreed that low numeracy skills are a noticeable problem in the US, and that many people have no idea on the concept of “compounding interest.”
Let’s see what we can learn from Scott Flansburg. But first, here’s a bit more about him.
Since about 1990 Scott Flansburg has regularly given lectures and presentations at schools. He has been a presenter at organizations such as NASA, IBM, The Smithsonian Institution, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, and the Mental Calculation World Cup. The latter described Flansburg as “more an auditory than a visual [mental] calculator”.
One of Flansburg’s “personal missions” is to use education to elevate math confidence and self-esteem in adults and children. He says “Why has it become so socially acceptable to be bad at math?,” and reminds us that “If you were illiterate, you wouldn’t say that on TV, but you can say that you are bad at math. We have to change the attitude.” He believes students should become proficient with calculation methods rather than relying on table memorization.
Scott is the creator of The Counting Bee™[vii], an annual STEM competition open for K-12 students at all public, private, charter, and home schools. Its inaugural competition was held on November 8, 2018, in Arizona, where I live. I wish I had known of Scott back then, for I would have been sitting in the front row, hoping to learn something.
What’s really interesting is that Scott discovered his mental calculation ability at the age of 9 when his math teacher asked him to add four numbers. He can mentally add, subtract, divide and multiply numbers with the accuracy of the calculator naturally. In 1990, he started using his abilities in the education and entertainment industry. To date, he has published books like Math Magic and Math Magic For Your Kids.
Scott has been featured in popular shows around the world like The Ellen Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, USA Today, BBC breakfast, ESPN, History Channel, and many more.
Let’s meet Scott Flansburg.
Welcome Scott, thank you very much for coming on the podcast today to share ways that we can improve our numeracy skills. This is such an honor for me to have this chance to speak with you. When I looked at your website, it’s clear that you have caught the attention of some of the greats who have made their mark in history, like Larry King, or Regis Philbin who nicknamed you “The Human Calculator,” Tony Robbins, Oprah or comic book writer Stan Lee.
I’ve got to tell you Scott, when I see talent, it’s impossible to look away! I was blown away with your story (watching you add a 2-digit number to itself 36 times in 15 seconds) but what really got me was seeing you on AZ Family TV with the 1st AZ Counting Bee[viii]and the National Counting Bee[ix] helping students with these skills.
Intro Q: Why did you start the Counting Bee, and what is your vision for young people around the world with numeracy skills?
Q1: Scott, what I love about stories like yours, is that there is such a huge need for numeracy skills (not just here in the US, but Globally) and I’m fully aware of how important mindset is for my own results/future, let alone my two girls who watch and model everything that I do, especially now that the Pandemic has taken away so much of those math skills that are cumulative. When I watched the winner of your Counting Bee, and the anchor asked his Mom “Where did he learn this from, was it you?” And she said strongly, “Definitely not!” Perhaps his Father? I recognized that I have said the exact same thing about my husband who is really good with numbers. Why do you think people so afraid of numbers? Do you think there is a new sense of urgency around numeracy skills that is different now with the times we have faced?
Q2: When did you notice that you had these numeracy skills that were helpful for your family while grocery shopping (I read that you could add up the tally of a grocery list before the cashier had rung up your orders) or at what age did you notice that your brain worked differently from the other students?
Q3: How did you get into the Guinness World Book of Records? How did you even know about trying for this?
Q4: What have you learned about your brain and how it might be different from other brains? I saw something about the fact that scientists associate your mathematical skills with the fact that an area in your brain is displaced upward and significantly expanded? Did you have your brain scanned? How would anyone know this?
Q5: I have put a link to your website, with your programs listed, but what are the programs you offer? I see courses for kids, students, and professionals. Can you tell me about each one?
Thank you so much for your time today and for what you are doing to help the world embrace numbers in a different way. If anyone wants to reach you, they can click on the link in the show notes and also find you
Area 44 of the Brain https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brodmann_area_44
https://mobile.twitter.com/TheCountingBee The National Counting Bee on Twitter
Sign up for the next Counting Bee https://www.thecountingbee.org/
Nelson Dellis’ Mind Show with Scott Flansburg Published March 8, 2016 https://memory-sports.com/blog/videos/nelson-dellis-mind-show-with-scott-flansburg-the-human-calculator/
Re-learning Math with Scott Flansburg Part 1 Published on YouTube October 24, 2012 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hesKQ_y1P7k
Human Calculator Shares Math Secrets Feb. 23, 2012 https://www.greenwichtime.com/news/article/Human-Calculator-shares-math-secrets-3357228.php
Math Magic by Scott Flansburg Published in Amazon June 15, 2015 https://www.amazon.com/dp/B016UEKRA2/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1
Math Magic for Your Kids Published Jan. 20, 1998 https://www.amazon.com/Math-Magic-Your-Kids-Calculator/dp/0060977310
Scott Flansburg Shares How He Came Up with the 0-99 Grid May 21, 2015 https://news.wttw.com/2015/05/21/human-calculator
Stan Lee’s Superhumans Human Calculator| History Channel Published on YouTube October 1, 2020 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtotrboSUqQ
Extraordinary Humans with Scott Flansburg https://watch.insight.tv/extraordinary-humans/videos/scott-flansburg
[iii] Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast EPISODE #145 with the World’s Fastest Reader, Howard Berg on “Strategies to Improve Reading, Comprehension and Recall” https://andreasamadi.podbean.com/e/the-worlds-fastest-reader-howard-stephen-berg-on-strategies-to-improve-reading-comprehension-and-recall-for-educators-and-the-workplace/
[v] Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast EPISODE #138 with Dr. Daniel Ansari on “The Future of Educational Neuroscience” https://andreasamadi.podbean.com/e/professor-and-canada-research-chair-in-developmental-cognitive-neuroscience-and-learning-on-the-future-of-educational-neuroscience/
[vi] Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast EPISODE #146 with Expert in Psychology, Cognitive Neuroscience and Neurotechnology, Howard Rankin, Ph.D. on “How Not to Think” https://andreasamadi.podbean.com/e/expert-in-psychology-cognitive-neuroscience-and-neurotechnology-howard-rankin-phd-on-how-not-to-think/
[ix] The National Counting Bee April 3, 2019 https://www.kusi.com/the-human-calculator-encourages-students-to-sign-up-for-national-counting-bee/