Doing mental calculations with ease

KUALA LUMPUR - As a timer began counting, eight-year-old Lim Shi Qi performed mental calculations at an astounding speed that saw her solving 30 arithmetical challenges in 40 seconds.

She did not check the answers in this demonstration of mental arithmetic for The Star, confident in her calculations (and yes, she got all of them right).

Shi Qi was one of the participants of the 15th National Pan Pacific Abacus and Mental Arithmetic (Pama) Competition, where she tackled challenges like "9,350 divided by five" with ease.

More than 500 participants in Malaysia put their mental calculation skills to test at the competition organised by IMA Mental Arithmetic Academy yesterday.

Each of five groups went through two parts of the proficiency test: calculation using an abacus and another without.

Shi Qi's mother Tan Bee Peng, 43, said she started sending her daughter to learn abacus and mental arithmetic when the then four-year-old was struggling in kindergarten.

"Her teachers complained that she had a poor memory (in remembering what they taught her).

"So I decided to send her for abacus and mental arithmetic classes to help her improve," said Tan, a teacher herself.

"When you learn arithmetic, your memory power improves. Learning other things would also be improved such as learning different languages," said Tan, who is happy with her daughter's progress.

Shi Qi emerged the champion for Group B, which is for children aged seven to eight, and will be among the 12 children representing the country in the 14th International Pama Competition in Hong Kong on Dec 28.

Another star at the event was four-year-old Chong Kylie, who was one of the youngest participants, to join the yearly event.

Her mother Choo Yan Foon, 45, said Kylie, who is the youngest among her five children, showed the most interest in numbers.

"This is not about the trophies. It is to help them in their studies to have a bright future," she said.

Kylie's teacher Tan Vee Kiew, 44, said she was impressed by Kylie's performance as "she learns fast" for her age.

Pama Malaysia president Ronnie Chong said children who learned mental arithmetic could calculate three to five times faster than a calculator.