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Campus Currents May 2007: Volume 4, Number 2

Guesstimate or Calculate

It’s the calculator that “thinks” only if you think, too.
QAMA™, or Quick Approximate Mental Arithmetic, is a new kind of calculator designed and developed by Ilan Samson, an “inventor-in-residence” at UC San Diego’s California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2).

Samson prototyped and tested a hand-held version of the calculator at UC San Diego and San Diego’s High Tech High School, which allows users to perform any calculation, from simple arithmetic to complex calculations involving scientific functions. But here’s the twist: The result is shown only if the user first keys in a reasonable mental estimation of the answer.

“The purpose of QAMA™ (pronounced “kaama”) is to bring back the full involvement of the mind without having to give up the virtues of the calculator,” Samson says.

Since developing a hand-held prototype of QAMA™, Samson has been searching for a suitable calculator manufacturer willing to produce the devices on a large scale and at a universally affordable cost. In the meantime, he launched an online version of QAMA™ in October, QAMAcalculator.com, to generate public interest and enable use of the software on personal computers.

—Tiffany Fox