Monday, 18 August 2008

Our Brain Is Tuned For Addition Versus Subtraction

Do you prefer adding numbers or subtracting them?

Do you make more mistakes doing subtraction than doing addition?

If the answers to the above questions are all YES, you are not alone.

We are "programmed" since young to add more than subtract.

Do you count things starting from 1 up or down from 100?

Does the page number of books starts from 1 up or down from the last number?

Does the date on a calendar month starts from 1 up ?

Day in day out, we are bombarded by addition of numbers through counting up. It is not accidental though. It is due to the fact that we do not know the maximum in those counts.

Therefore, we are accustomed to addition and will do better with this maths operation than with subtraction.

Try doing this:

  1. y = 44 + 36

  2. y = 44 - 36

  3. y = 60 + 53

  4. y = 60 - ( - 53)

We can do the above simple maths questions easily.

But, honestly, did you take a longer time to compute the subtraction?

There is a slight mental block compared to addition, right? Mine does.

There is nothing wrong with this. What I like to bring to your attention is the fact that knowing addition is the brain's preference, we can minimise maths error by aiming for addition than subtraction, if possible.

If we are to do a maths operation y = 55 - (3 + 6), do the (3 + 6) first, followed by the subtraction.

Avoid doing y = 55 - 3 - 6, with 2 subtractions involved. Although mathematically it is correct, why take the risk?

It's the same for calculating y = 53x + 16x than doing y = 53x - (- 16x).

Did you get the message? Understand how your brain works and tweet the mathematical process for a less risky computation.


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