It takes 11-year-old Aditya Ray only seconds to multiply a five-digit number with a four-digit one. This, he says, is because of Vedic mathematics, "which has made my calculations quicker and accurate". By traditional method, Ray would have taken over a minute to get the answer.
"It takes me around one and a half minutes to multiply such large numbers using the conventional method. However, if I take the Vedic maths route, I can solve it in 30 seconds," the Class 6 student told IANS.
The Kolkata-based Ray added that while his school expects him to solve problems using the traditional way, he at times uses Vedic maths to cross check his answers.
Vedic mathematics, which came into focus after the Narendra Modi government put emphasis on India’s ancient and forgotten knowledge systems, is a branch of mathematics based on 16 Sanskrit sutras (word formulae) which make mathematical calculations 10-15 times faster as compared to the traditional methods.
Discovered by Hindu seer Swami Bharati Krishna Tirthaji in the early 20th century, it is also said to be easy to remember, offers multiple ways of doing the same calculation, creates inquisitiveness and improves analytical thinking.
According to the School of Vedic Maths (SOVM), Tirthaji was born in 1884 in Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu. After completing his Master of Arts at age 20, he was briefly a college principal. He quit that to embrace a spiritual path. It was during deep meditation that he got inner revelations on the 16 sutras from the appendix of Atharva Veda, one of the four vedas, the ancient Indian spiritual and scholastic texts. Tirthaji declared that any mathematical problem can be solved using them.
Gaurav Tekriwal, president of the Vedic Math Forum India, said Vedic maths was a collection of methods to calculate faster when compared to the traditional methods.
"With a little practice in Vedic maths one can make mundane calculations easier, simpler and quicker so much so that you can call it ‘World’s Fastest Mental Maths System’. It has applications primarily in arithmetic and algebra and hence is a favorite of competitive exam aspirants who want to tackle maximum problems in less time," Tekriwal told IANS.
The Forum holds online classes spread over 30 hours for students and 40 hours for teachers. The classes are one on one.
Pradeep Kumar, founder director of Magical Methods, which provides training in Vedic maths, shared that using such calculations, finding the square of any number ending with five becomes extremely easy.
"Say you want to find square of 85. You multiply 5 by 5 and put 25 as your right part of the answer. Then, multiply 8 by the next higher digit, 9, and put 72 as your left part of the answer. Your answer is 7,225," he said, adding the same formula can be used to find square of any number ending with five.
The branch is slowly gaining popularity among students "because it is very useful, especially for those planning to take competitive examinations", Kumar said.
"Today, there are a lot of competitive exams. Speed is one of the key factors to crack any exam which tests numerical ability. Vedic maths is a very good tool. It gives a good sense of numbers for all working professionals who do a lot of number-crunching in their jobs," Vinay Nair, founder of School of Vedic Maths (SOVM), told IANS.
Nair added that from a teacher’s point of view, it gives "immense possibilities to explore learning mathematics from many angles and in innovative ways".
But S.G. Dani, professor in the department of mathematics at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, believes Vedic maths was "just a bunch of tricks, devoid of coherence".
"It has little significance. We might as well forget it. Though it may have a few useful bits, the aura around it makes it very damaging on the whole," Dani told IANS over email.
Retired 85-year-old teacher and educationist Dinanath Batra, who got American scholar Wendy Doniger’s book on Hinduism pulped, is batting for the introduction of Vedic maths in schools and universities.
Vedic Maths is favoured by those who have benefited from it and want it introduced in the education system. Teachers of conventional mathematics and school principals IANS spoke to agreed that it should be officially introduced.
Sapna Jain, assistant professor in the department of mathematics in Delhi University, told IANS that since Vedic maths has ancient roots, those who study it will also get to know about a lot of things which have remained buried "like the invention of zero and algebra".
"There is no harm in introducing it at the primary level in schools, at least some parts of it. It will only make the students’ base stronger. It has been seen that students take interest when new techniques are taught," Rekha Dwivedi, a mathematics teacher at a government school in Dwarka in Delhi, told IANS.
She added that teachers should be first trained.
Agreed Nair, who said that introducing Vedic maths would be good especially in Classes 6 to 9, "but without a proper pedagogy in teaching and proper training to teachers, it might not be very effective."