Good with Numbers
Exactly What It Says on the Tin, more or less. It could be a Mook, The Tagalong Kid, The New Guy, or The Idiot of the Group, but on a random lark, you show them your math homework/accounting/hyper-dimensional missile schematics. Within seconds, they know what's going on, where the problem is, what to do to fix that, and then proceeds to spell it out, astonishing the entire group. When prompted, they generally explain they grew up on a math farm or something of the like or just simply, "I'm good with numbers." Can be anything from rapidfire simple math, to supplementing baseball with trig projections, but then you're just awesome that way. Is generally a Chekhov's Gun for a plot point later in the episode, or can evolve into a Running Gag for the series and short hand for doing math stuff really fast. Rather logically, the Robot Buddy and The Spock often have this ability. It's also a common ability of the Idiot Savant, as well as the Genius Ditz.
Definitely Truth in Television, as quite a few people in Real Life have this ability. Most of them are mathematicians, but not all of them. In fact, there are even competitions for mental math.
May sometimes speak with a Mouthful of Pi. See also Mad Mathematician. May result from Super Intelligence.
Contrast Everyone Hates Math.
Contents
Anime and Manga
- Pinoko from Black Jack, who memorized her guardian's credit card number so she could follow him anywhere he went.
- Sadaharu Inui, the Seigaku Genius Bruiser from Prince of Tennis. This makes him victim of Flanderization in both Fanon and canon.
- Despite his general doofiness, Yakitate!! Japan's Azuma Kazuma turns out to be nothing short of a mathematical genius when he solves a cryptographic problem in base 26 in less than a minute.
- It's not made a big deal of or even really mentioned outright (in the anime, anyway), but Accelerator in A Certain Magical Index is Good with Numbers as one of the necessary abilities to actually use his esper ability properly. The nerf he gets is actually based on brain damage that affects his mathematics ability and requires a ten-thousand-person Hive Mind to correct for a mere 15 minutes at a time.
- It Gets Better, as GROUP's enhancements were able to extend his Esper Mode to 30 minutes, then he himself managed to reduce his battery consumption by 90 percent so he could use it for undertaking longer missions.
- It's been implied that the more powerful an Esper is, the more likely that he is Good with Numbers. Dark Matter, Railgun, and Meltdowner are all very powerful espers with immense Physics (and, you guessed it, Math) knowledge. Teleporters (except Kill Point) need to calculate up to the eleventh dimension.
- This is Kenji's defining ability in Summer Wars. He's so damn good he solves 2056-bit encryption in his head.
- The supplementary manga of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's revealed that, much to the competitive Alisa's chagrin, both Nanoha and Fate are like this. Fate especially, to the point where Nanoha's sister goes to her for help on her high school math homework even though Fate's in elementary school. The same chapter also mentioned that the magic in the series requires a good bit of math, so being good with numbers is one of the reasons why they're both top mages.
- Inverted in Nichijou. Nano, a robot girl who wishes she wasn't, apparently has trouble solving "3260 plus 260, divided by 320," even going so far as to pull out an abacus to work out the problem.
- In Code Geass, several of Lelouch's Humongous Mecha require his superior mathematical skills, including his Shinkiro's absolute defense shield and the anti-FLEIJA device which required incredibly complex calculations to be input within 19 seconds of use.
Comic Books
- Teen Genius Amadeus Cho from Incredible Hercules can do advanced physics in his head, complete with glowing diagrams around him. He's claimed to be good enough that he can use math to stop a charging rhino with a grape seed, and proved it when he fought the freaking Hulk.
- Superman: Red Son establishes that Lex Luthor is a super-genius scientist at STAR Labs. This isn't really surprising, but this trope comes in when he casually hands his OSS handler a formula to balance the economy. However, he says it's just the principles, and the Treasury will have to do the number-crunching for the specifics.
Fan Works
- Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter fic The Arithmancer and its sequels is a math prodigy and instant calculator who's already taking college-level math courses when she enters Hogwarts at age 11. She tests into Arithmancy in her first year, and things start diverging from canon rather dramatically from there.
Films
- In The Dark Knight, Lau explicitly states that he is "good with calculation" while attempting to betray the whole Gotham mafia. He intends to leave with the money they entrusted him with. Had it not been for Batman and his brutal ways, he would have been able to actually make it. Though it is quite possible that the Joker himself had been planning it all since the very beginning - he is quite the Crazy Prepared guy.
- Kazan - the autistic savant in the movie Cube.
- Also Wynn from the prequel Cube Zero. Depending on how you interpret the ending, the two may be the same person.
- Ben Campbell from the movie 21, but that's to be expected when he counts cards as a part time job.
- His Establishing Character Moment is him verbally tallying up a complicated order for a customer at a clothing store, including knocking off part of the price by applying his own employee discount towards the order, all without aid of a pen and paper or calculator. In the trailer, the math is written out on screen for the benefit of the audience, though that bit was left out in the movie itself.
- John Nash of both Real Life and A Beautiful Mind. Manipulates glasses of water to alter the optic lines refracting through them to match a tie on the other side. Solves complex cryptograms based on the Sierpinski Gasket in his head. Revolutionizes all economic theory since Adam Smith. Crazy as a loon.
- At the end of the third Alternate Universe live-action Death Note movie, L adopts a Thai kid who's good with math. It's heavily suggested the kid grows up to be Near.
- Harold Crick in Stranger Than Fiction. A routine occurrence in his life is being given math equations by his coworkers, which he solves in his head instantly.
- Good Will Hunting. Will's genius is "discovered" while he's working as a janitor at MIT. In just a few minutes, he solves an impossibly complex calculus problem that was left on the chalkboard after everyone went home. Prof. Lambeau had given his students the entire semester to work it out.
Literature
- Andrew Jackson "Slipstick" Libby from Robert A. Heinlein's Future History series. In his introductory short story Misfit, he replaces a spaceship navigation computer by performing all spatial calculations needed to navigate the ship in real time in his head.
- And his mathematical genius comes to light when he warns of a critical calculation error made in setting a small nuclear charge based on what he's learned about laying the charges just by watching the officer making the calculations. (For the younger generation who'ven ever seen one, a "slipstick" is a nickname for a sliderule, a type of analog calculation aid common before hand-held calculators got good enough to do things like logarithms.)
- Also form Heinlein, Deety Carter from The Number of the Beast is as fast a calculator as Slipstick Libby. She also has a photographic memory and an incredibly precise circadian rhythm—i.e., a clock in her head. She's a slight subversion, though, in that she says that her lightning calculator ability is pointless with computers around (except that she can see a glitch in a program much more easily than most people).
- Romeo "Mo'Steel" Gonzalez from Remnants, able to tell how many years and days he had been in stasis with just a glance at a counter showing how many minutes had passed. It totaled "five-hundred years, twelve days, and some spare change."
- Meg Murry, from A Wrinkle in Time and other books by Madeleine L'Engle.
- Wraith Squadron's Voort "Piggy" saBinring is an enhanced Gammorrean, and a math genius. During dogfights, while flying and fighting on his own, Piggy is capable of keeping track of his squadronmates and the enemy, and frequently chimes in with suggestions such as "Three, recommend you break left now" and "Nine, recommend you fire now." At the end of Solo Command, his realization about the true nature of an elite enemy squadron helps save the day.
- Otto Malpense from h.i.v.e. is the archtype of this trope; he figures out the equation that a computer is using to generate a bunch of moving lasers in his head, closes his eyes, and does the equivalent of walking in between raindrops, without getting hit. Justified, seeing as he's a geneticially-altered clone designed to have a brain with roughly the same processing power as a uber-intelligent AI, able to think both like a human and like a machine, and interact remotely with complicated computer systems and brush aside thier security networks.
- In Scott Westerfeld's Midnighters trilogy, one of the special abilities you can have if you were born at midnight (and probably the most useful) is the ability to do lengthy, complex mathematical calculations easily in your head.
- Mark McHenry from Star Trek: New Frontier is specifically good with warp calculations, headings, speeds, and anything else related to navigation and piloting, much like the Star Trek examples below. In fact, at one point, a character specifically compares him to Data, in the "OK, the last time someone was this good, he was an android; what's up with this one?" sense. We eventually learn that Mark is a descendent of Apollo (from the original series), and linked at some basic level to the universe at large.
- The Bursar of Unseen University in Discworld is this. Years ago, he was "a man whose idea of an exciting time had once been a boiled egg", and he has been driven totally, completely insane over the course of several books by Archchancellor Ridcully's habit of shouting at him and generally being as Hammy as possible. However, if you ask the Bursar a question that has anything to do with math (as his title suggests) he is able to answer it no matter which reality curve his mind is riding at the time. Since it's difficult to tell if he's really all right after things like nasty shocks, in later books this becomes a way of diagnosing him; if he can still answer a math question correctly and immediately, he's perfectly fine. Ridcully even seems to know this:
Chair of Indefinite Studies: I don't see why. Just because he can do things with numbers doesn't mean everything else is fine. |
- By Unseen Academicals, however, he has either lost several more of his faculties or just been retconned into an incompetent - Unseen University's finances are in a mess and Ponder Stibbons has had to take on the Bursar's job (in addition to his twelve official positions, and probably just about everything else that needs to get done, ever) because he 'regards the decimal point as a nuisance'. An Alternate Character Interpretation of this is that after discovering imaginary numbers and n-dimensional manifolds in The Science of Discworld, he refuses to descend from higher maths back to boring old arithmatic, and is trying to do the accounts with aleph-null and "umpt".
- Granny Weatherwax is described in Maskerade as "grudgingly literate, but keenly numerate". It takes her seconds to deduce how much Nanny Ogg is being screwed by the publisher of her cookbook, even taking into consideration things like the cost of materials and distribution. She is also able to figure out the finances of the opera house, which were expertly tampered with to hide an embezzlement scam.
- Talen from The Elenium is of the "can do normal math really fast" variety, which he claims developed from practice, and the need for a thief to do on-the-spot appraisals and fence stolen goods. His skill instead comes into play during the Church election's political maneuvering and vote tallying.
- Andrew Jackson "Slipstick" Libby in Robert Heinlein's Future History stories. He was a lightning calculator as well as having intuitive mathematical ability.
- The atevi from C. J. Cherryh's Foreigner series. Forming grammatically correct sentences in their language requires mentally doing simple algebra, and they all have the ability to instantly and accurately count things. Further, their cultures have developed a number of extremely complex systems of numerology, which the majority of atevi treat as Serious Business.
Live-Action TV
- Lulu from True Jackson, VP. In one episode, she's hired to be a assitant. When she finishes all the work, another co-worker asks her to solve a math problem on the chalkboard. After a while, she figures out the board was upside down and turns it the right way and solves it.
- River Tam from Firefly:
Kaylee: "She just did the math." |
- Face, on The A-Team is brilliant with numbers. Naturally he's in charge of the team's finances, which he keeps record of in a little black book (not that he needs it—he's really good at mental math).
- Malcolm from Malcolm in the Middle can do mental math with Credit Cards Numbers.
- At one point he helped his dad win at poker by being able to calculate the exact probabilities of the availability of certain cards.
- In the Doctor Who serial The Invasion, Zoe calculates the trajectories to destroy the Cybermen's entire invasion fleet with a handful of missiles. In her head. In thirty seconds. It works a treat.
- Adric is the proud possessor of a badge for mathematical excellence, and has demonstrated proficiency at the reality-warping mathematics that is Block Transfer Computation.
- The Doctor himself is often described as a genius and occasionally demonstrates. In the Expanded Universe novel "Interference", the Doctor briefly transports himself out of a cell using pure mathematics (presumably the same Block Transfer Computation that Adric used).
- In the revival (and as a more Hidden Depths example), Donna Noble puts the number skills she requires as an office temp to work in the episode "The Doctor's Daughter".
- Sayid establishes his "good with numbers" cred in the pilot of Lost by figuring out that 17,294,535 iterations of a 30-second message would take 16 years, 5 months. It takes him about one cycle of the message to calculate this.
- Professor Charlie Eppes from Numb3rs, who uses his skills to solve homicides.
- On Friends Chandler is irked whenever people concede that "numbers" is about all he has going for him. "Math? You're giving me math?"
- On Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Dr Bashir starts displaying this characteristic after it's revealed that he's genetically engineered and therefore has (among other benefits) a superior brain.
O'Brien: "The core matrix is fried. We don't have warp drive." |
- Likewise, Data was pretty good at math.
- Lisa from News Radio often does large calculations in her head. People tend to ask her large multiplication questions whenever they can fit it into a conversation.
- James May on Top Gear, at least by comparison to his somewhat Book Dumb co-presenters.
- Eli Wallace from Stargate Universe is a math prodigy. He is recruited into the Stargate program after solving a mathematical proof embedded in a video game. His math skills periodically come in handy, such as in "Light" when he quickly works out an intercept course for the shuttle.
Rush: Whoa-whoa-whoa. Eli, there's many variables here. Are you sure about this? |
- Near the end of The Prisoner, Number Six mentions being good with figures, though it's not prominently demonstrated - it's probably more for ironic contrast with his resistance to being numbered.
- The pilot episode of White Collar demonstrates Caffrey's amazing mathematics. He calculates 64 years of compound interest in a few seconds, then follows that up with the much more difficult task of dividing 600 by 4.
- Matt, Shirley's Love Interest in The Adventures of Shirley Holmes. He even goes to a school for genius kids, and helps Bo with the answers in a math-based Game Show so he'll be able to get in as well.
Bo: Some geniuses! They can't even count. |
- Fred Burkle from Angel is a math genius, and often uses the skill to help the team. Her math skill is so great that, in one episode, a group of demons attempts to cut off her head and steal her brain after she solves a puzzle for them.
- Adam Savage of the MythBusters has been shown occasionally counting how many frames of high-speed camera footage an object takes to cross a given distance (typically a foot), then doing a series of rapid-fire mental calculations in order to find out its speed in miles per hour.
- Olivia Dunham on Fringe is shown to have an eidetic memory for numbers and patterns, but it apparently doesn't grant her any greater ability to perform calculations.
- In Spartacus: Blood and Sand, the gladiator Ashur uses this talent to gamble, and when he becomes crippled, his master allows him to be his accountant.
Tabletop Games
- GURPS has the advantage Lightning Calculator to simulate this; the second level of it allows the character to do things like high level engineering design in his head instantly.
Videogames
- Sho Minamimoto from The World Ends With You, to the point of almost having the whole trope named after him.
- It even carries into his stats. His Hit Points are 3141 when you fight him at the end of Week 2, and his Taboo Form Hit Points are 5926. Put them together and tuck a decimal point behind the three and you have the first eight digits of pi.
- Neku could also apply for being able to belt out the square root of 3 at the drop of a hat (during day two of the second week, for those who wanted to know), but he could also have a calculator on his phone.
- Dmitri Petrovich of Backyard Sports has this, coupled with the ability to use mnemonics to remember stats.
- Ran Yakumo of the Touhou series. She once calculated the width of the Sanzu River out of bordeom. Note that the Sanzu River is the mystical river of the dead and that its width constantly changes whenever someone passes through it. In Curiosities of Lotus Asia, when Rinnosuke first saw a computer and learned that it's used for, he interpreted them as being the outside world's version of familiars like Ran, because they're slaves that are used to calculate things quickly. Of course, since a familiars power is derived from its master, Yukari Yakumo is even better at numbers than Ran, and Ran mentions that if Yukari wanted, she could have calculated the depth of the Sanzu River as well, even though it's known to be bottomless.
- N from Pokémon Black and White. He rambles about forumlas several times, and is seeking 'the equation to change the world'.
Western Animation
- Fenton Crackshell from DuckTales (1987) has the uncanny ability to precisely count any large quantity at a glance. Originally working at a bean factory as a literal bean counter, he is hired as Scrooge McDuck's accountant because of his amazing talent (and because he works cheap). Later he defeats an alien computer by beating it at a counting contest.
- Fenton proved himself when Scrooge blasted him with a shotgun and Fenton counted the buckshot as they were fired. Scrooge was obviously stunned at this ability and had it confirmed when he suddenly tossed some coins into the air and challenged Fenton to assess their monetary value, Fenton's answer was correct to the penny.
- Later, after Fenton took the phrase "liquid assets" too literally and dumped all of Scrooge's money in a lake, Scrooge threatened Fenton with his job if even a single penny was missing. Fenton slapped on a snorkeling mask, looked underwater for a few seconds, then resurfaced and rattled off a number in the millions that was only short by one cent. The missing penny was caught in his mask, so the money was in fact all there.
- Leopold "Butters" Stotch from South Park falls into this trope multiplying 2 large numbers almost instantaneously in one episode.
- The janitor in Recess is revealed to be this when he easily solves Gretchen's math problem after school. He's eventually approached by the military and scientists...but he turns them down, saying he'd rather just be a janitor.
- Rosie Grape from Veggie Tales is the youngest member of her family, and also the only one that knew what seventy times seven was.
- Humorously averted by Bender on Futurama, even though he's a robot.
Bender: (doing calculations on a pad of paper) Aw, I need a calculator! |
- One of Yakko's talents in Animaniacs, although his song on multiplication does suggest the viewers "buy a calculator, and learn all this stuff later".
Webcomics
- Laetre, a hamster showed some mathmatical aptitude in this Hamleto comic.
- This is the closest Future High Priestess Sal gets to superpowers, since religion is NOT magic. She can rapidly calculate the probability of anything based on known factors.
- Heartwrenching when she calculates the odds of escaping Kreedor's castle before her execution as 0%.
Web Originals
- Red v Blue subverts this with Simmons proclaiming to be able to multiply large numbers in his head instantly. He can't.
Grif: What's...32 times 56? |
- For those math/calculator-challenged, 32 x 56 = 1792. God knows where he got 31, 452.
Real Life
- Taken Up to Eleven in by Scott Flansburg as seen in Stan Lee's Superhumans. He can do extremely complex math faster than a human using a real calculator.
- Carol Vorderman originally got the job on Countdown in part due to her ability to solve the Numbers Round in her head.