Posts Tagged ‘ savants ’

“Islands of Genius”: What Savant Syndrome Could Show Us

By Amanda Bertsch

Note: this essay was written for the Math Honors class. If any students have interesting essays or assignments they would like to share, please email them to


What are savants?

Savants are people who have mental handicaps, often severe, but possess incredible skills. Most of these skills are contained in five general categories: music, calendar calculations, mathematics, art, and spatial skills. Musical skills are perhaps the most common and usually include perfect pitch and unusual skill at the piano; interestingly enough, blindness tends to be associated with musical savants as well. Calendar calculations involve being able to tell what day of the week any given date fell on, no matter how far in the past or future it lies. Mathematical skill is not being able to understand complex math—on the contrary, mathematically gifted savants rarely comprehend even arithmetic. Rather, they can perform lightning calculations or quickly compute huge prime numbers. Spatial skills are often the ability to measure distances extremely accurately without any tools, construct complicated models perfectly, or give the best directions to a location based on memorized maps.

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