Category: parenting

I call it the LIWS (loose) method: Label, Imprint, Wipe, Stack – It’s like “painting by number”, but the opposite… I did this when I was bored the other day, and found it helped me out a great deal with my ability to solve 3x2x1 math problems in my head. What’s cooler is that I’m certain it will help lots of people do lots of different kind of mental math more effectively.

The idea behind this (and a LOT of work I’m doing right now) is that we have multiple senses, and if we used them together in new, creative ways, we can enhance our ability to do all kinds of mental work. I initially wanted to come up with something like this after reading about Daniel Tammet.  Daniel has synesthesia, which causes him to “experience”, “perceive”, or “sense” numbers as colorful landscapes and graphic images in his mind. When solving complex equations, the landscapes combine to produce the answer, in the form of a rich and complex visual image in his mind’s eye.

I thought, “hey, if it works for him, why not see if it can work to some small extent for the rest of us?” I was never great at math in school, but as I’ve gotten older, I realize that I just never learned it in a way  I could really relate with – a way that uses my own mental resources the most effective way possible. Like most people, I can solve bits of an equation in my head, but I lose track of numbers as I go. They all just get jumbled around in my head, scattered across my mental whiteboard in black and white, with no sense of order. One mistake and I have to start the whole thing over. Using this method, you break out the factors separately and use the colors to imprint across different sections of your brain. This way, if you mess up at some point in the problem, you’ve still got an imprinted “save spot” to go back to, in the form of your last colored product/sum. You’ll see what I mean if you try it out.

So if you solve a part of the equation using this method, you imprint the product in color in your mind’s eye. Focus on the colored number in your mind in whatever form is easiest for you to remember. I like picturing mine as white digits on a colored background. This seems to imprint best for me personally, which brings up an important detail. Use any color scheme that you feel works best for you. I seem to be able to remember this particular pattern best. These colors in this order are easiest for my mind to retain. It’s exactly beefing up the RAM in your computer. Instead of only using the mathematical processing center of your brain, you’re using the graphic, color processing part to hold onto your products as you go.

The method looks something like this, but you can modify as needed for your brain

  1. Label factors Rainbow, Silver, and Gold and IMPRINT to memory
  2. Solve for Rainbow and Silver – Product becomes your new Rainbow
    1. As you solve each set, IMPRINT the colored product in your mind completely, so that it is well in-focus in your mind’s eye. This may take time, but that’s the point. You’re exercising your mind.
    2. After you IMPRINT each colored product, WIPE out every other number you have in your mind. The point of this method is to tag or label products as you come to them and clear everything else out so you reduce mental clutter. You should only have 2 colored factors in your mind at any given time.
    3. After you WIPE out all numbers but your most recent colored product, STACK it onto the next colored product by adding the two. Again, Label, Imprint, etc.
  3. Solve for Rainbow and Gold – Product is final answer

My first problem I attempted, while jotting these notes, took me about 10 minutes. After working on 4 more problems over the course of a day, I got down to 2 minutes, and actually did this while driving and listening to a neuroscience lecture (posted a few days ago on the blog). I’ve shown it to a couple of people, and while it’s not something that just jumps out at you the second you see it, once you start to get the point of the process (label, imprint, wipe, stack), I think it could help a lot of people do more complex math of various kinds in their head.

These are just notes, and I’ll I’ve had time to write down. See if it makes any sense, and if it helps anyone, I’ll actually put some effort into it and produce a simple guide with more detail and such.

A young Nikola Tesla working on wireless power in 1895

I wanted to put this up while I had it in mind, but I'll come back and update later as I have time and find new apps. I've only recently thought about taking the time to really work on a collection of science apps, but these are the ones we've always used a lot, and they're all great for pulling your head of work, school, video games, or social media. Send me some suggestions if you have recommendations and I'll give them a try!

Click for iTunes

- Solar Walk is amazing (I have it on iPad). It lets you explore the solar system and beyond, zooming in on planets and moons. My kids and I all love it and it's easy for anyone to use. The resolution is great and you start feeling all Neil deGrasse-y after playing it for a few minutes. On top of the awesome zooming and locating features, as you would probably assume, there are tons of nifty little links and articles with info for you to read on the various cosmic bodies hurling through space.


Click for iTunes

- StarWalk2 is a must have as well. You can use the AR (augmented reality, if you just found the internet) feature to look at the sky with your phone or tablet and see all the stars, constellations, satellites, space stations, and UFO crashes. It even sends you push notifications when a meteor shower is coming up soon. That way you can set a reminder to stick a tent on the ole apartment balcony and enjoy the view next Tuesday. The constellations are all sort of sculpted in 3D using a crystalline sort of effect, making them truly striking to behold, especially on the impressive retina display of an iPad.


Click for iTunes

 - Google Earth is often forgotten or overlooked I think, by adults and kids alike. The app also sports some features long-time non-users may not have tried out yet. For instance, everyone totally digs the ability to fly down through the Grand Canyon in exactly the same way you move a Minecraft character. It really is too cool - video game-style movement and perspective, but in the real world. You should check it out if you haven't in a while.


- Amazing Science Facts: Review underway




 - 4D Anatomy: Review Underway




Click for iTunes

 - All Trails may not seem like a "science app for kids" or a "science app" at all... but really, it is. This is the best app I've found for finding trails of all kinds, all over the country. Some of the best science you can do, either by yourself or with kids or friends, you can do outside. This is especially true at night, when you show someone a sky full of billions of stars for the first time ever, or give them their first look at a satellite streaming across the sky at thousands of miles per second. You can't see that stuff inside, and All Trails has been key in locating and reviewing trails that are just right for adults, dogs, and kiddos of all ages and fitness levels.


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