As you read the title, I believe some of you might have confused 'Congak' with 'Congkak', which are really two very different things but which I myself was confused with at the beginning. Congak is a Malay word which refers to the practice of 'mental mathematics'. Perhaps you might now be wondering what mental mathematics is, so let me help you clarify. Mental mathematics or mental math for short is the ability to do arithmetic calculations accurately without using any pen, paper, calculator, computer or any electronic devices. Basically you're counting 'in your mind' and don't be surprised but excellent mental math practitioners can solve fairly difficult problems very quickly. I met a ten year old kid who could answer the question of 1435x132 accurately in just a few seconds!

I remembered growing up how popular mental mathematics was as a learning program and the concept was even advertised on television by many different companies. It used to be thought that being good at mental math afforded many other benefits and advantages to students. I myself tried to improve my mental math back then but these days, I find it much easier just to use a calculator and with almost everyone having a mobile phone, a calculator is always on hand.

Recently, Petrosains organised a Congak Competition as the centre celebrates all things mathematical. A total of 40 participants from Standards 4 & 5 from several schools took part in the Congak Competition. They were the ones who scored highest for the Congak Math quiz during Petrosains’ on-going thematic program, the Magical Math that involved 2525 students from 38 schools.

The competition consists of a series of challenges, the first of which was called 'Calculate It'. Participants were challenged to solve 30 arithmetic questions with only 20 seconds alotted per question. Each of them was provided with an answer sheet for them to write the answers while the mathematical problems was splashed on screen.

Participants in deep focus as they attempt the first challenge.

The second challenge was a crowd favourite. If you love board games then I am sure you would love this too. The second challenge was presented in a board game format, and the game is called 'Math Magic Challenge'. The game is easy to learn but thrilling nonetheless requiring various skills such as good calculating skills, a sound strategy, and the ability to think fast!

A participant making a move on the board.

Think! Think!

For the third and final challenge, only five participants with the highest scores from the first two challenges took part. The final challenge was broken up into three parts, all variations of mental math activities requiring participants to solve given problems in increasing order of difficulty.

The judges for the day.

Supporters, teachers and parents watching the finalists on stage.

After the intense but exciting finals, the Congak Competition culminated with a big win by a student from SK Bandar Baru Sri Damansara (1)! The prize giving ceremony was inaugurated by the head of Majlis Guru Besar of the Petaling Zone, Selangor. For winners, keep up the good work and for those who didn't win, don't give up and keep trying. Mental Math is all about practice, practice, practice!

The first place winner!

Participants of the Congak Competition.

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