the world is made up of two kinds of people—those who love Math and those who
Long before computers and programs like TIS’s award-winning Jojo in Numberland, in about 1500 BC, Indian mathematicians came up with a system that eased the pain of learning Math. Today, Vedic Math is probably not so famous as the other Indian contribution to mathematics—the concept of zero. It was, however, saved from total obscurity, largely due to the publication of Vedic Mathematics by Sri Bharati Krsna. What the system boils down to is a set of sixteen sutras (aphorisms or, more literally, tricks) that deal with every conceivable mathematical problem—from basic arithmetic to complex polynomials—that a student encounters.
This has huge implications for curriculum designers of Math courseware and special-needs education for learning disabilities like dyscalculia — imagine compressing a typical ten-year Math course into one page of sixteen simple rules of thumb.
One of these sutras—the rather innocuously named ‘vertical and diagonal’ rule—facilitates the mental multiplication of any two numbers. The thought of multiplying, e.g., 54643345 by 67598793, without a calculator would daunt the best among us, and doing it without putting pen to paper seems quite out of the question. In fact, with a bit of practice, it is child’s play as this little demonstration shows—and it takes all of five minutes to learn how it’s done.
Apparently, on average, we
only use 2% of our brainpower; Einstein reportedly used 5%, though I haven’t a
clue how anyone could calculate that. The point is that learning is a step in
evolution, and technology should facilitate the better use of one’s faculties.
Whether we use it as a crutch that we can’t do without, or a tool to sharpen
our skills—that is the question.
(Vivek is Manager – Content at Tata
Interactive Systems and a graduate from the Indian Institute of Technology)