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.