Tuesday, November 22, 2011

They should call this the Daniel Tammet package

I was up late the other night with the telly on and a friend and I were making jokes about the silly infomercials, and an infomercial came on which appears to be an educational package for teaching lightning maths calculating tricks and memory techniques to kids. It looked a lot like some of the skills which Daniel Tammet appears to have used in ways that have impressed some researchers so much that they have claimed that Tammet's ability could only be due to the mysterious gift of savant syndrome. If schoolkids can be taught this stuff, then how much of a savant did Tammet need to be to perform such tricks?

The name of this package is Brainetics, and I do not recommend it or advocate it. It's just interesting to see what kinds of skills they claim can be taught to children. Another interesting aspect of the advertisement is the predominance of girls, including some purportedly diagnosed with ADHD, among the kids shown performing the mental calculation tricks. I suspect that this is not an attempt to counter negative gender stereotypes about females and maths, I rather suspect that the message that the viewer is supposed to take away is that this learning program is so easy and effective that it can even be used to teach girls and ADHDers maths (!) It's a sad old world.


Anonymous said...

Daniel Tammet himself has claimed he can teach amazing skills - the real Daniel Tammet package?

"In a single week, Optimnem course participants can expect such things as a complete underlying grasp of a foreign language, or a mastery of numbers."

So you too can learn a language in a week, if only you can get Daniel Tammet to teach you. Allegedly.

Mr Anon

Lili Marlene said...

It's bizarre that Tammet sells the idea that he has a special ability to teach skills that he supposedly acquired effortlessly as the result of being a savant, and this self-contradictory idea has been left unchallenged by so many researchers, journos and readers. Even though both Tammet's courses and the Brainetics package have both attracted complaints that can be read on the internet, I'd favour the Brainetics mob for at least having more honesty in not claiming that there is anything mysterious or neurological about being able to learn the skills.