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February 06, 2008

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dancing kitchen

I've always been curious about how others mind pictures enhanced their memory. As a teacher I always have told my students that numbers can tell stories and give mind pictures like words can, in support of my push for mental math. Of course some grasped this easier than others, and honestly I'm not sure if numbers speak to me nearly as clearly as words. Is it lack of practice, or lack of mathmatical schemata or maybe I'm not one with a propensity for synesthesia. Thanks for giving me something to think about!

john

Thanks DK. I'm pretty sure that I don't "see" ideas falling into place when I do, well, anything. I certainly don't have any visual synesthesic response to anything. On the other hand Ramanujan didn't see anything--he just knew the answers to impossibly difficult maths questions (having "the angels" whisper their answers to him, which is something else entirely, I guess). A friend of mine who is a "prodigiously gifted" calculating savant(and who applies his capacities beautifully in art) says that he sees columns of numbers floating in his head and then "watches them line up" to get his answers (all done lightning quick). But I do agree in mind pictures generated by numbers, and their is a long, vast, rich history of philosophical exploration behind it. Dennett, Piaget, Pylyshyn, Knight Dunlap (oh god that's an old one), B Russell, lovely lovely Ludwig Wittgenstein and many others have weighed in on *exactly* this issue (mental images of numbers vs. words and etc). And its thorny and difficult and contentious and I'd rather have other people thinking about it (smile), and I'm glad that they do. But I do appreciate your "push for mental math"--it does at the very least accomplish a certain amount of trainable intellectual rigor.

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