Dating

It's Hot When People Can Do Mental Math

Two dating experts explain why this skill is weirdly attractive.

If you can calculate the tip on the bill using mental math, that's hot.
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My first date with my boyfriend was pretty average, a springtime walk followed by pizza. Sure, he was nice, a good listener and had dreamy blue eyes, but I wasn’t getting the butterflies. Well, not until the bill arrived. Brian kindly took care of it. Without missing a beat, he calculated everything in his head and returned to the conversation. I could see the suggested tips weren’t printed at the bottom of the check. Brian, who will now admit that he isn’t the smoothest, didn’t realize he was pulling the suavest move ever. I rely on my iPhone calculator to calculate the tip and new total. He did mental math and I found it weirdly hot. Immediately, I felt my cheeks start to turn red. Yup, I officially had a crush on him.

For a while, I hesitated to share that I think mental math is a turn-on with anyone, but apparently, I’m not alone. “I wouldn’t say that his math skills solely made me want to date my boyfriend, but it made him more attractive for sure,” says Paige, 28, who lives in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. She’s renovating a home with her boyfriend and he’s happily taken the lead on keeping track of the project's costs. “Math doesn’t scare me, but I can’t do it as fast as him,” she says. While her boyfriend talks through his mental math out loud, Paige always reminds him, “You lost me about five numbers ago.”

An attraction to mental math probably goes deeper than just finding calculations steamy. This skill shows a huge green flag that someone is both smart and quick on their feet. “All of my clients, regardless of gender, are looking for intelligence in a partner,” says Anita Chlipala, a licensed marriage and family therapist and relationship expert.

It’s no secret that most people want a smart significant other. “I think it’s important that my partner is smart, and that’s the thing I love about her,” says Kat, 25, from Arlington, Virginia. “Yes, she can do mental math, she’s very intelligent, and I find that to be very attractive.” On a first date, clever jokes and an encyclopedic knowledge of trivia can be easy-to-spot indicators of intelligence. Mental math can be added to that list.

“If mental math is [a] sign of intelligence, that could make someone feel safe, or feel like that person could be a good provider,” says Chlipala. “If mental math is a skill that you don’t have, you might elevate it in a partner.” In other words, if it’s not your strong suit, you might be extra impressed when someone else can do it.

After all, opposites attract. “Being strong at math could mean that someone is logically minded,” says Thomas Edwards, a dating expert. “That can serve a purpose if a decision ever needs to be made without the emotional layer.” Brian makes decisions based more on logic and I make decisions based more on emotion. That brings healthy balance to our relationship.

Mental math might get hotter as you age. “What used to be something to be ashamed of because it's so geeky and nerdy, all of a sudden, [it] becomes a really attractive trait,” says Edwards. As we get older, our perception of what makes a great partner evolves — and so it doesn’t matter if someone used to sit with the mathletes in the high school cafeteria. If you used to crush on Gossip Girl’s charming, beautiful, and not particularly academic Nate Archibald, maybe now you find it cute when the engineer on Hinge knows four languages.

Brian claims that his mental math skills are no big deal, but to me, he’s an Isaac Newton-level mathematician. After I confessed that I found it hot, he admitted to doing more of it around me, and it never gets old. I’ll always get a little giddy. He still would have secured a second date if his tip calculation required a gap in our conversation. I knew he was intelligent from a number of different factors, but I’ll still credit mental math as the first spark.