Dazzling pocket PCs are aplenty for the children of today.  Kids roll into the classroom with iPhones, Blackberries, and various Android devices capable of supporting myriad complex applications.  We are living in a wonderful age where handheld computers help us tremendously and continuously.  Alongside all of the fancy apps (that allow us to manage everything from our finances to our fantasy football teams) is a standard utility application that accompanies every smartphone: the basic calculator.  Need to carry out some quick arithmetic to figure out how much money you owe your buddy?  Pull out your phone and type away.  It’s that simple.  So why the heck do kids need to memorize the multiplication table?  Because it is still crucial to a successful math career and a promising life thereafter.  Don’t believe me?  Here are four reasons why mental math is still tremendously important and absolutely foundational.

1. Confidence Is Key

You have likely heard people utter the following nonsensical words: “I’m not a math person.”  Hmmm.  Well, I guess some people have it and some don’t.  I used to think that I must be a math person because I enjoyed it and was good at it.  Lucky me, right?

Wrong.  Let’s break it down.  People often derive enjoyment from activities that they are comfortable with.  You typically find that the best basketball players love basketball, the best writers love English class, the best artists love painting, and so on and so forth.  So, it naturally follows that achieving a high level of skill in a particular area could induce an accompanying feeling of pleasure.  This may not be 100% true, but there is certainly a very high correlation between proficiency and enjoyment.

Once a child starts thinking that math is hard or they are simply unable to compete with their cohorts, the downward spiral of poor math performance ensues.  Kids believe they are not good, they don’t try as hard, and eventually they are the not-so-proud owners of a slew of subpar grades.  In contrast, those kids that simply believe they are good at math will soar to the top, diving into the material and confidently attacking their math homework.  These kids will continuously feed their positive beliefs about their math abilities and eventually perform well throughout high school.

So how do you embed these positive beliefs?  Enter mental math.  Once you can master the multiplication table, something that is fairly simple to learn with some daily practice, you can uproot those negative beliefs about your math abilities.  You will suddenly feel confident and able, and this will inevitably influence your approach and attitude as you climb higher and higher through the math curriculum.  Confidence is the utmost important component to math success.  If you nurture it early on, you will have no problem reaching the top.  How am I so sure?  Because this is precisely how I began my successful journey in mathematics.

2. Mastering The SAT

You may not like the SAT, but you must learn to live with it.  It is several hours on a Saturday morning that will prove to be, pound for pound, minute for minute, the most important component of your college application.  Think about it like this: you will have spent hundreds of hours taking exams during your high school career, but the SAT, a mere three hours and forty-five minutes, will prove to be exponentially more critical to your success than any one of those subject exams.

Accordingly, your mental math skills are critical.  Why?  While it’s true that calculators are now allowed on the SAT, you will seriously hamper your progress if you rely on the device for arithmetic.  No matter how much you hate multiplying and dividing in your head, you need to get comfortable with it in order to race through the math section.  Even if you understand the operations and principles, the time constraint will get you if you’re still working out basic multiplication on the keypad of a calculator.  That’s why mastery of arithmetic is critical for a high SAT score.

3. Quick Mental Math = Better Performance On Tests

Even if your school teacher permits the use of calculators on an exam, solid mental math will bolster your confidence and increase your speed.  When I was in high school, I was so fast with mental multiplication that I wouldn’t even use my calculator until I had raced through the entire exam.  This then gave me ample opportunity to review my answers and make certain that I had not fallen victim to a silly error along the way.

The ability to quickly make calculations in your head will pay dividends in all high school subjects including calculus.  It simply does not cease to be useful.

4. People Presume High Intelligence Accompanies Computational Skills

Now, as silly as outside perceptions are, they are quite critical to your eventual success in the business world.  Accordingly, you want people to have great first impressions of you.  One terrific way to dazzle your acquaintances and coworkers is commanding an excellent expertise with numbers.  When people reach into their pockets to grab a calculator, you can stand their calmly and shout out the answer before your friends have had a chance to even load their calculator application.  What will the reaction be?  “Wow, you’re smart.”  No joke.

Let’s be real on this point.  Wowing your friends and coworkers isn’t going to make or break your career, but it will certainly grease the wheels as you travel down the career highway.  People will develop a presumption of intelligence about you, and you can harness that presumption to reach your goals.