Skokie resident Mike Byster may be showcasing his amazing mental calculating skills on the new Fox series “Superhuman” (debuting at 8 p.m. Monday), but the former Chicago Mercantile Exchange trader insists anyone could do what he does.
“People think, when they see me calculate numbers instantaneously, I was born with this ability. I wasn’t! I trained my brain at a young age, and then learned — many years later — that those skills were transferable,” said the Rogers Park native, who today owns a software company that helps educate kids.”
For 24 years, Byster worked at the Merc and then turned his attention to schoolchildren. “I would trade in the mornings and then go into the school and teach kids how to be smart,” said Byster, admitting that his easy relationship with quick calculations “definitely did help me” as a trader.
Spend a few minutes chatting with Byster and you quickly realize his passion today is helping kids — particularly those from challenging communities that lack educational resources.
“It’s all about teaching kids how to avoid distractions, totally focus and learn to use their memories. It can change lives, because if you learn this at a young age, it stays with you forever.”
Byster understands that kids can easily become bored when told they have to learn how to learn.
“That’s why I do it with fun, with games with things that will capture their attention,” he said.
One of the games Byster uses is having children concentrate on a deck of cards and learn how to quickly determine which card is missing. “My dad is in his 80s, and even today he can look at a deck with a card missing and figure out which card in 22 seconds.”
Participating on the June 26 episode of “Superhuman” is important to Byster because he’s hopeful that many kids and their parents “will be watching and realize those children don’t have to be stuck where they are. It’s not about where they live. It’s about how they can improve their lives by learning how to improve their mental capacity.”
Example of Byster’s games and techniques are all over YouTube, showcasing quick examples of the fun way he inspires children to improve their mental strength.
The champion on “Superhuman” will take home a $50,000 grand prize. “If I win it,” Byster said, “I would use the bulk of it to travel to more schools around the country and teach my system — which I do for free anyway — to many more schools.”
Sun-Times columnist Bill Zwecker also works as an entertainment reporter for Fox 32 News.