last place one would associate with any sort of creative endeavor—a Nazi
concentration camp. And yet, it was in one of those living hells that Prof.
Jakow Trachtenberg, a Russian engineer and mathematical genius, came up with
his famous—in mathematical circles—system for high-speed mathematical
to death, the Professor barely escaped with his life, only to be arrested
again. Amidst the misery that surrounded him, he found solace in numbers,
playing with them, finding patterns, perfecting his system in his mind before
he wrote them down—even scraps of paper were a rare luxury.
deals with a range of mathematical problems—division, multiplication, and
squares—that students generally find, well, problematic. (You can view a simple
.) It is similar to its Eastern counterpart, the Vedic Mathematics
system in some of its approaches, and its application in aiding students with
Trachtenberg, having given the Gestapo the slip, went on to found the
Mathematical Institute in Zurich after the war. Today, it is better known among the Swiss as the “School of Genius". The Trachtenberg system is
extensively used in that country in banks, commercial institutions, and tax
departments. It can add great value to any course on numerical
calculations—after all, the Swiss bankers would know.
(Vivek is Manager – Content at Tata Interactive Systems and a graduate from the Indian Institute of Technology)