My instruction has, I’d like to think, a reasonable degree of academic rigor. If pressed, however, I might concede that it’s not daily I transport students to the boundaries of human mental ability. Shakuntala Devi’s Telegraph obituary gives us a glimpse.
Known as “the human computer,” she could, upon hearing your date of birth, tell you its day. In about the time it takes to fish out your phone and find the right app, she mentally calculated 7,686,369,774,870 x 2,465,099,745,779.
Ms. Devi, for whom the term “gifted” seems dissatisfyingly insufficient, had no conventional schooling, and attributed her powers to divine endowment. Still, she sought to share what she could: “I cannot transfer my abilities to anyone, but I can think of quicker ways with which to help people develop numerical aptitude.”
Her obituary taught us the vocabulary prodigy, prowess, aptitude, innate, and cognitive.
To explain what a cognitive meant, I showed them the test below, allowing that I hadn’t yet figured out the solution. Most students got it very quickly, thereby offering a glimpse of their mental abilities, and mine.