Most learn to do addition from right to left because it’s easier to teach and more compact to look at. The downside to doing addition this way is that you don’t develop an intuitive sense of numbers that Mathematicians have.  You end up thinking of arithmetic as a (boring) process instead of the relationship between numbers.  For instance, take:

+ 264

The meaning of and the relationship between the two numbers is irrelevant if you do this problem from right to left:

Step 1: 8 + 4 = (1)2
Step 2: (1)+2+6=9
Step 3: 5+2=7
Answer: 792

This method makes it tempting to not think about what a number like 528 means: 500 + 20 + 8, for instance.

To train yourself to develop a more intuitive understanding of numbers, teach yourself to add from left to right. Example:


Step 1: 700+200=900
Step 2: 20+0 = 20
Step 3: 3+1= 4
Answer: 900+20+4=924

Are you beginning to understand the meaning of a number like 924 more clearly?

Another example:


Step 1: 500+700=1200
Step 2: 60+80=140
Step 3: 9+9=18
Answer: 1200+140+18=1358

Caveat: left to right is an easier, more intuitive, and faster way to do addition only if you’ve mastered basic addition, which we worked on in an earlier lesson. I suspect the reason why most schools teach the right to left method is because most students haven’t mastered basic addition.  Which is unfortunate, because right to left method teaches students that math is a series of dry processes to memorize, whereas left to right approach turns math into a puzzle to put together (and take apart).  Use the left to right method enough times and you’ll begin to visualize numbers, a skill that’s crucial when you get to algebra, geometry, and beyond.

Write 20 three digit + three digit questions for you to solve using left to right method.  Double check your work by doing the questions using right to left method.

Verbal drills to build curiosity
Schools are notorious for beating curiosity out of students.  Steve Jobs said:

Respond to the following statements with a question:

  • You should drink orange juice when you have the flu.
  • Adolph Hitler was a terrible person
  • Coronavirus started in China
  • Everyone needs to go to college
  • Communism is better than Capitalism
  • LeBron James is overrated
  • Santa Claus has a big dick
  • There are universal human rights
  • Mandatory education is necessary for civil society
  • Knowledge is power!


Statement: Everyone needs to know how to read
Question: Why is knowing how to read so important?


Another example:

Statement: The personal is the political
Question: What do you mean by “political”?


Give yourself 10 minutes.  Do it twice, come with new questions the second time around.