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How to pick the shortest line, every time

By Andrew Katz, Men's Health

 

Think about how much time you'd save if you could judge which traffic toll lines move quickest, just by looking at them. According to new research, having that skill doesn't only subtract a few minutes from your road trip--it also makes your life a whole lot easier.

Some of us are born with a better "number sense" -- the math whizzes are likely the ones breezing through the tolls because they're better at judging numbers. Turns out, these people find daily tasks easier than those of us who struggle, say researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

The good news: You're not doomed if numbers aren't your strong suit. "The precision of people's gut sense of numbers seems to improve all the way up into their 30s," says lead study author Justin Halberda, Ph.D., an associate professor at Johns Hopkins.

Cool, right? Now use these tips to see how your number sense stacks up--and work to improve it. (And for more secrets to sharpening memory, boosting creativity, and slaying stress, discover 27 Ways to Power Up Your Brain.)

Improve your intuition
Everyday activities that stimulate your brain's ability to estimate can improve your number sense. When you're outside a bar, ask yourself: How many people are in line? Or at home: How many railings are on your porch? You don't even need to figure out the right answer, Halberda says. The process of asking your brain to calculate the estimations is enough exercise.

Be a better gamer
Preliminary research out of the University of Rochester shows the tasks and rapid decision-making that videogamers face might improve their numeric intuition. "People who play action video games may actually have a more precise number sense than people who don't," Halberda says. Your move: Stick with 3D action video games on your favorite system that have you in the driver's seat, scoring the goal, or climbing the mountain. (Looks like all those hours on your X-Box pay off on the court, too: Learn How Video Games Help You at Sports.)

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