Dr. Math FAQ 
Classic Problems 
Formulas 
Search Dr. Math 
Dr. Math Home
The Trachtenberg Speed System of Basic MathematicsThis constitutes a system of performing highspeed multiplication, division, addition, subtraction, and square root, all in one's head. The details are given in this reference:
Ann Cutler and Rudolph McShane, The Trachtenberg Speed System of Basic Mathematics, (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1960); reprint (Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1983) [specific reference here]. While it is impossible to capture the contents of this 270page book in one Web page, below you will find a part of the content of this system. For information about the life of Professor Jakow Trachtenberg, Founder of the Mathematical Institute in Zurich, see Trachtenberg Speed Math and Trachtenberg Math. MultiplicationFinding the product of multiplicands of any length by small multipliers is accomplished using a set of rules. One works from right to left from digit to digit of the multiplicand, writing down the digits of the product. The rules use only addition, subtraction, doubling, and halving. Here are the rules:
When the sum exceeds 10, write down the last digit, and carry the first digit. If you are taking half an odd number, use the integer quotient and ignore the remainder of 1.
Examples:
Once the multiplication tables are memorized, using multipliers of two digits is learned. Finally, using multipliers of any length is learned by the "twofinger" method.
AdditionThe method advocated here involves the following principle: "Never count higher than eleven." If any running column total exceeds 11, subtract 11 and put a tick mark in that column. When you reach the bottom, write down the running total, and under it write the number of tick marks. Now add these two rows using the strange rule of adding the two numbers in any column and the neighbor tick number. Write down the last digit and carry the other digit, if any, working righttoleft.
Example
3 6 8 9 7' 5' 8' 9' 6 6 7' column 1 0 6' 4 of 6 4' 9' 8' figures  8 1 1 3 running totals 1 2 3 3 ticks  2 '1 6 7 6 sumThis technique works on arbitrarily long columns of figures, and the columns can be dealt with in any order desired, except at the very last step.
Division and Square RootsThe methods for these operations are too long to discuss here, although less complicated than the traditional ones and more adapted for speed and mental calculation.
CheckingOne aspect of calculation which is advocated throughout this book is the importance of checking the correctness of one's work. The method of Casting Out Nines to check a result is used. For more about casting out nines, see the Dr. Math archives:

[Privacy Policy] [Terms of Use]
Math Forum Home 
Math Library 
Quick Reference 
Math Forum Search