The Magic of Vedic Maths
Part 1: What is Vedic Math?
What does mathematics have to do with Hinduism? Well, just as the
basic principles of Hinduism lie in the Vedas, so do the roots of
mathematics. The Vedas, written around 1500-900 BCE, are ancient
Indian texts containing a record of human experience and knowledge.
Thousands of years ago, Vedic mathematicians authored various theses
and dissertations on mathematics. It is now commonly believed and
widely accepted that these treatises laid down the foundations of
algebra, algorithm, square roots, cube roots, various methods of
calculation, and the concept of zero.
Vedic Mathematics
"Vedic Mathematics" is the name given to the ancient system of
mathematics, or, to be precise, a unique technique of calculations
based on simple rules and principles, with which any mathematical
problem - be it arithmetic, algebra, geometry or trigonometry - can be
solved, hold your breath, orally!
Sutras: Natural Formulae
The system is based on 16 Vedic sutras or aphorisms, which are
actually word-formulae describing natural ways of solving a whole
range of mathematical problems. Some examples of sutras are "By one
more than the one before", "All from 9 & the last from 10", and
"Vertically & Crosswise". These 16 one-line formulae originally
written in Sanskrit, which can be easily memorized, enables one to
solve long mathematical problems quickly.
Why Sutras?
Sri Bharati Krishna Tirtha Maharaj, who is generally considered the
doyen of this discipline, in his seminal book Vedic Mathematics, wrote
about this special use of verses in the Vedic age: "In order to help
the pupil memorize the material assimilated, they made it a general
rule of practice to write even the most technical and abstruse
textbooks in sutras or in verse (which is so much easier - even for
the children - to memorize)... So from this standpoint, they used
verse for lightening the burden and facilitating the work (by
versifying scientific and even mathematical material in a readily
assimilable form)!"
Dr L M Singhvi, the former High Commissioner of India in the UK, who
is an avid endorser of the system says: "A single sutra would
generally encompass a varied and wide range of particular applications
and may be likened to a programmed chip of our computer age". Another
Vedic maths enthusiast, Clive Middleton of vedicmaths.org feels,
"These formulae describe the way the mind naturally works, and are
therefore a great help in directing the student to the appropriate
method of solution."
A Simple & Easy System
Practitioners of this striking method of mathematical problem-solving
opine that Vedic maths is far more systematic, coherent and unified
than the conventional system. It is a mental tool for calculation that
encourages the development and use of intuition and innovation, while
giving the student a lot of flexibility, fun and satisfaction.
Therefore, it's direct and easy to implement in schools - a reason
behind its enormous popularity among educationists and academicians.
Try These Out!
If you want to find the square of 45, you can employ the Ekadhikena
Purvena sutra ("By one more than the one before"). The rule says since
the first digit is 4 and the second one is 5, you will first have to
multiply 4 (4 +1), that is 4 X 5, which is equal to 20 and then
multiply 5 with 5, which is 25. Voila! The answer is 2025. Now, you
can employ this method to multiply all numbers ending with 5.
If you want to subtract 4679 from 10000, you can easily apply the
Nikhilam Navatashcaramam Dashatah sutra ("All from 9 and the last from
10"). Each figure in 4679 is subtracted from 9 and the last figure is
subtracted from 10, yielding 5321. Similarly, other sutras lay down
such simple rules of calculation.
The Magic of Vedic Maths
Part 2: Its History & Origin
"The world owes most to India in the realm of mathematics, which was
developed in the Gupta period to a stage more advanced than that
reached by any other nation of antiquity. The success of Indian
mathematics was mainly due to the fact that Indians had a clear
conception of the abstract number as distinct from the numerical
quantity of objects or spatial extension." - A.L. Basham, Australian
Indologist in The Wonder That Was India
Born in the Vedic Age, but buried under centuries of debris, this
remarkable system of calculation was deciphered towards the beginning
of the 20th century, when there was a great interest in ancient
Sanskrit texts, especially in Europe. However, certain texts called
Ganita Sutras, which contained mathematical deductions, were ignored,
because no one could find any mathematics in them. These texts, it's
believed, bore the germs of what we now know as Vedic Mathematics.
Bharati Krishna Tirthaji's Discovery
Vedic math was rediscovered from the ancient Indian scriptures between
1911 and 1918 by Sri Bharati Krishna Tirthaji (1884-1960), a scholar
of Sanskrit, Mathematics, History and Philosophy. He studied these
ancient texts for years, and after careful investigation was able to
reconstruct a series of mathematical formulae called sutras.
Bharati Krishna Tirthaji, who was also the former Shankaracharya
(major religious leader) of Puri, India, delved into the ancient Vedic
texts and established the techniques of this system in his pioneering
work - Vedic Mathematics (1965), which is considered the starting
point for all work on Vedic math. It is said that after Bharati
Krishna's original 16 volumes of work expounding the Vedic system were
lost, in his final years he wrote this single volume, which was
published five years after his death.
Development of Vedic Math
Vedic math was immediately hailed as a new alternative system of
mathematics, when a copy of the book reached London in the late 1960s.
Some British mathematicians, including Kenneth Williams, Andrew
Nicholas and Jeremy Pickles took interest in this new system. They
extended the introductory material of Bharati Krishna's book, and
delivered lectures on it in London. In 1981, this was collated into a
book entitled Introductory Lectures on Vedic Mathematics. A few
successive trips to India by Andrew Nicholas between 1981 and 1987,
renewed the interest on Vedic math, and scholars and teachers in India
started taking it seriously.
The Magic of Vedic Maths
Part 3: Its Growing Popularity
"In Vedic times, it is believed, math formulae were often taught
within the context of spiritual expression (mantra). Thus while
learning spiritual lessons, one could also learn maths. How is that
possible?" Discuss it http://forums.about.com/n/mb/message.asp?webtag=ab-
hinduism&ctx=&cacheTag=48-13&msg=125.1
"India was the motherland of our race and Sanskrit the mother of
Europe's languages. India was the mother of our philosophy, of much of
our mathematics, of the ideals embodied in Christianity...of self-
government and democracy. In many ways, Mother India is the mother of
us all." - Will Durant, American Historian 1885-1981
Interest in Vedic maths is growing in the field of education where
maths teachers are looking for a new and better approach to the
subject. Even students at IIT (Indian Institute of Technology) are
said to be using this ancient technique for quick calculations. No
wonder, a recent Convocation speech addressed to the students of IIT,
Delhi, by Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi, Indian Minister for Science &
Technology, stressed the significance of Vedic maths, while pointing
out the important contributions of ancient Indian mathematicians, such
as Aryabhatta, who laid the foundations of algebra, Baudhayan, the
great geometer, and Medhatithi and Madhyatithi, the saint duo, who
formulated the basic framework for numerals.
Vedic Maths in Schools
Quite a few years ago, St James' School, London, and other schools
began to teach the Vedic system, with notable success. Today this
remarkable system is taught in many schools and institutes in India
and abroad, and even to MBA and economics students.
When in 1988, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi brought to light the marvels of
Vedic maths, Maharishi Schools around the world incorporated it in
their syllabi. At the school in Skelmersdale, Lancashire, UK, a full
course called "The Cosmic Computer" was written and tested on 11 to 14
year old pupils, and later published in 1998. According to Mahesh
Yogi, "The sutras of Vedic Mathematics are the software for the cosmic
computer that runs this universe."
Since 1999, a Delhi-based forum called International Research
Foundation for Vedic Mathematics and Indian Heritage, which promotes
value-based education, has been organising lectures on Vedic maths in
various schools in Delhi, including Cambridge School, Amity
International, DAV Public School, and Tagore International School.
Vedic Math Research
Researches are being undertaken in many areas, including the effects
of learning Vedic maths on children. A great deal of research is also
being done on how to develop more powerful and easy applications of
the Vedic sutras in geometry, calculus, and computing. The Vedic
Mathematics Research Group published three new books in 1984, the year
of the centenary of the birth of Sri Bharati Krishna Tirthaji.
Plus Points
There are obviously many advantages of using a flexible, refined and
efficient mental system like Vedic math. Pupils can come out of the
confinement of the 'only one correct' way, and make their own methods
under the Vedic system. Thus, it can induce creativity in intelligent
pupils, while helping slow-learners grasp the basic concepts of
mathematics. A wider use of Vedic math can undoubtedly generate
interest in a subject that is generally dreaded by children.