Need for Calculation Speed : The Calculation Skills of AIR 95

Previously, i stressed on my need for calculation skills. Now, I recount the story of my student Aakash who scored All India Rank 95 in JEE-Advanced, 2016.
– Mohit Ryan

Classes started.
I was teaching atomic structure to my class and we were encountering calculations including unit conversions, decimals, high powers of variables, etc. As is my habit, I started teasing the students regarding their calculation speeds….claiming that it was equal to the speed of light….but only in reciprocal.
However, this one student seemed irked by my comments. Inside my mind, i smiled. After all, this is what the purpose of my comments are… either students should either get inspired and Improve their calculation speed or that they should get annoyed by my short frequent teasers and start calculating fast and accurate. A teacher does whatever he does, after all, to improve his/her students’ skills.
Now, this student (the one who was irked) whom I am talking about was not satisfied with my comments which were meant to be for entire classroom…He felt that I should not include him with other students of the class. As far as i read him, he believed that he was different and had a speed more than his classmates. Although it was a bit unsettling at times to see such beliefs in kids, as they often lead to over-confidence. However, I just smiled at that moment as I liked his winning attitude and self-belief.
This happened sometime around October, 2014.
As usual, my teasers were continued by me as i taught the next few chapters. I am pretty sure that students would have found me reaching a ‘maxima of teasing’ while I was teaching chemical and ionic equilibrium. This was around December, 2014.
Just a few weeks later, I was sitting with the same student (whom I mentioned to be the one not satisfied by my opinion about students calculation speed), discussing questions on ionic equilibrium. (Ionic equilibrium questions do involve loads of calculation)
I started the calculation bit of one of the tougher questions….and ended up getting a wrong answer. The student, however, solved it right, and before i had done my calculation. He was smiling and tried to explain his calculation method. I, however, didn’t believe him and I continued solving a complex expression full of fractions and decimals. It took me around 5 minutes to do it. What was unsettling was that, all those 5 minutes, he continued smiling.
Irked by his behavior, I asked him what was he smiling for? This was what happened
Aakash : On your NEED for speed …in calculation.
Mohit : At least, I finally did the question. You should have done it yourself… but you didn’t even take a pen to start the calculation …so lazy of you.
Aakash : I just did that mentally and told you the answer

Suddenly, I looked at his answer. It was the correct one, same as mine. I was awe-struck.
Yes, he did a correct calculation mentally in 10 seconds … which took me 5 minutes and a full page to do.
I was astonished.

I asked him, “How did you do it so fast?” He replied, ” Earlier in the session, during the classes…I found that your calculation speed was stunning…It was inspiring ! I vowed then, that some day, when I will show you my speed, you won’t even  be close! “

I was shockingly-inspired by these words of his. I just realized that all these weeks i had been teaching him, he was competing with my speed. Just because he believed that he was faster than the class….(which he was).
And, in such a case, there is no better competitor for a student than his teacher.
He was right though…When he won that day, I was not even close to his speed.
Later, he became one of my favourite students. It was then that i realized his reason for calculation skills… deep love for calculations.
He used to get bored soon, specially if stuck in traffic while going somewhere. So, he would simply look at the number plates of any vehicle….and play with the numbers, even alphabets (A was equal to 1 and Z was equal to 26). Doing this thing for so many years had strengthened his skills a lot. In the class, I would observe that the time taken by him for any question basically depended on how much time it would take for him to grab the concept and simplify the equations he had made… Calculation took hardly any time.

This boy achieved AIR 95 in JEE, 2016.

What he says to all students, “Calculations are fun, love them. They will give u a tremendous mental strength….and fill you with confidence”

So do I believe, as a teacher. And remember, nothing comes without hard work and practice.
The first step to strengthen your calculation… Ditch your Calculator and the calculator app…. let your mind be the calculator.
The second step is to practice a lot to hone your skills and show you tricks.
Nothing else will work.
There, 2 steps only. Simple, isn’t it?
Now get cracking….

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