New Delhi: National Mathematics Day is celebrated on December 22 to honor the contributions of India’s legendary mathematician Srinivas Ramanujan on his birth anniversary.
From Aryabhatta and Bhaskara to PC Mahalanobis and Shakuntala Devi, India has produced many geniuses who made great contributions to the world of mathematics.
In India, it is said, mathematics has its origins in Vedic literature dating back to several thousands of years.
Vedic Mathematics is considered to be a mental maths system, practiced through a collection of ‘sutras’ or word formulas that simplify the complexity of maths and let people perform calculations in an easier and faster way.
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What is Vedic Maths?
Discovered in the mid-20th century, after Indian mathematician Bharati Krishna Tirtha came out with a book (Vedic Mathematics) in 1965, Vedic Mathematics is said to follow certain specific principles for various kinds of mathematical calculations.
Various forums, such as Vedic Maths India, have been actively teaching the techniques of Vedic Maths to remove the phobia of maths from the minds of children. Its founder, Gaurav Tekriwal’s TED video shows several of its applications like how to multiply numbers of big digits by locating their base.
According to Tekriwal, Vedic Maths applications can be found in research and academics, and it can be used to do additions, subtractions, multiplications, divisions, decimals, percentages, ratio proportions, besides in trigonometry and other applications too.
Vedic Mathematics consists of 16 sutras and 13 sub-sutras to solve any mathematical problem, according to subject experts.
Sutras such as Ekadhikena Purvena can be helpful in finding the digits in the decimal expansion of numbers. Sutras can be called underlying observations of mathematical understandings that make it easier to solve complex problems.
Ed-tech brand Vedantu has also launched a program in Vedic maths under its V-Nurture and Super School initiative.
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The debate about Vedic Maths
It has been observed that an increasing number of people are now learning Vedic Maths.
Professor James Glover has dedicated 40 years researching and teaching the utility of Vedic Maths. In one of his articles, he wrote: “Vedic Maths…provides deep insights into the very nature of the subject and the human psyche.” According to him, it “encourages an intelligent and holistic approach”.
Speaking to ABP Live, Dr. Atul Gaur, Associate Professor at the Department of Mathematics, University of Delhi, said: “The requirement of past ages was to calculate the sums for trade which used to be huge at times. Vedic Maths was useful in those cases to solve even complex problems in minutes.”
He advocated introduction of Vedic Maths in school curricula. “It can be taught at school level to enhance computation but it doesn’t fulfill all the needs of today’s maths,” Gaur said.
“It helps do mental calculations much faster. Therefore, not just school children but even students appearing for entrance exams like JEE and other competitive exams take up Vedic maths lessons,” Nikhil Agarwal, the Vedic Maths course curator at Vedantu, was quoted as saying in a report in The Indian Express.
However, not everyone agrees that Vedic Maths can add any more depth to our understanding of mathematics.
SG Dani, Senior Professor at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, has written how Vedic Maths has overshadowed the actual contribution of ancient Indians to Maths.
“Not only does the approach of Vedic mathematics not contribute anything towards this crucial objective, but in fact might work to its detriment, because of the undue emphasis laid on faster computation,” he has written.
Professor Dani has written several articles and papers debunking the ‘myths’ of Vedic maths. His main argument is that one should not engage in tricks of fast computation. He, however, agrees that it would be appropriate to use them as “aids in teaching the related concepts”.
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What do students say?
Many students are now enthusiastically taking up Vedic Maths to upskill themselves.
Nanditha, a Class 11 student at Kendriya Vidyalaya, Kottayam, will be presenting a paper at the National conference of Mathematical Education (NCME) organized by NCERT on the subject of Vedic Maths.
Speaking to ABP Live, Nanditha shared her experience of teaching Vedic Maths to more than 1,000 students during the lockdown. “I was introduced to Vedic Maths at the age of 10. It lessens the burden of large and long calculations. My understanding of the subject increased and due to better performance I became more confident about Maths,” she said.
Kanan Gupta, a mathematics PhD student at Texas A&M University, said vedic Maths helped in school but he doesn’t find it as useful now.
“When it comes to higher level research mathematics, there is very little that Vedic Maths has to offer because it is much less about coming up with new ideas and more about fast arithmetic.”
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