I noticed that almost all of my daughter’s friends who take extra tuition outside school inevitably take maths tuition.  It piqued me: is maths that difficult?  I wrote an article for Times Education Supplement, based on new research, that there is no such thing as a maths brain.  You can read the article here.

I am curious, because my daughter is mathematically gifted. Is it genetic, or have we done something special?

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What does the table above look like to you? Georgina would find it interesting, trying to find patterns that exist beyond the standard multiplication.  She would try to find rhyme and reason behind the positioning of the numbers. Finding order and logic for her is as natural as brushing her teeth and she does it all the time.

As an educator, I believe that having the right mental representations is the key to developing your mathematical potential. Look, fathom, formulate, and most of all, practice, practice, practice!

To get you (or your child) there, I would like to introduce you to KenKen, a  new numerical logic puzzle from Japan. The name means loosely “cleverness squared.”  When Georgina was about 8 or 9, she self-published a book of Sudoku puzzles that she sold to family and friends.  KenKen takes Sudoku to the next level. It was invented in 2004 by the Japanese educator Tetsuya Miyamoto, who founded and teaches at the Miyamoto Math Classroom in Tokyo. Students attend his class on weekends to improve their math and thinking skills. Mr. Miyamoto said he believes in “the art of teaching without teaching.”

The rules are simple: Fill the grid with digits so as not to repeat a digit within any row or column, and so the digits within each heavily outlined box (called a cage) go together using the arithmetic operation shown to make the target number indicated.

An simple KenKen: this is a 3×3 puzzle that uses addition only:

The rules:

  1. No digit can be repeated in any rows or columns.
  2. The two digits in each rectangular box have to combine to give the total outlined in the top left corner.

(solution at the end of this post)


Even New York Times is jumping on the KenKen bandwagon and published a KenKen square everyday alongside its famous crossword puzzles. You can learn more about it here.