| ESSENTIALLY ENJOYABLE: Dr Abhijit Das at the Vedic Maths workshop. Picture by Aranya Sen
The calculation 14 multiplied by 14 need not necessarily be done in the well-known, tried-and-tested method of long multiplication, nor by memorising the 14 times’ tables. Just multiply 14 by 10, which is easy enough. Then, multiply 14 by 4, which isn’t too difficult either. Add the two numbers and you have your answer. This is the essence of Vedic maths — simple yet logical.
A three-day workshop on the subject is currently on at Padatik, on AJC Bose Road, conducted by Dr Abhijit Das, a specialist in the subject from Mumbai. “Initially, we had only planned one session in the evening, with a capacity of around 50 students. But, because of the flood of phone calls, we were forced to organise three sessions, with around 150 students. Yet, we are still having to turn people away,” says Jayasri Mitra of Padatik.
So, what is the secret of the subject’s success that draws such large crowds' A discovery of the versatility of numbers and the fun of playing with figures, replies Das. “Pure maths is very rigid, with very set ways of doing calculations, particularly complicated ones. But with Vedic maths, it’s just the opposite,” he adds.
It was perhaps this “joy of numbers” that had a group of college students captivated when they were shown how 9999 could be multiplied by 1234 in about three seconds.
And it was Vedic wonder that had students as young as seven years old staring mesmerised at the board. The first batch of students, comprising parents, schoolchildren and college-goers, needed no separate explanations to grapple with giant equations, although the differences in ages and educational backgrounds were vast.
Eight-year-old Rishab Karnani was at the workshop with mother Savita. Rishab likes maths, but Vedic maths, he says, is “easier to understand. It is different from how we are taught in school. I like it.” Savita says: “I teach both my children at home. So, I came to find out the methods. I thought Rishab would be too young to follow, but he had no problems.”
The methods of Vedic maths, propagated and popularised by Sri Bharati Krishna Tirthaji of Puri in the early 1960s, are taught in several countries, including Singapore and the UK, in special institutions. Das, who is the member of several world bodies that spread the word of Vedic maths and is currently collaborating on textbooks and workbooks on the subject, explains that there are basically 16 Sanskrit sutras (formulae) and 14 sub-sutras, which can be applied to pure maths, algebra and geometry. “But, essentially, it’s all about enjoying numbers by playing with them.”
And there’s magic in numbers, too. Like the digits nine and five, which have special qualities that help in tricky calculations. Keshni Gupta, 17, was introduced to Vedic maths for the first time on Monday. She grinned and said it was definitely interesting and that she liked maths now. At the end of the workshop, Das asked every student a mental calculation and gave them a few moments to reply. When a little girl was asked the answer to “1+1”, she immediately said two. Later, however, she asked her mother why she was given such an easy question.
Enthused by the “unexpected” response to the workshop, Padatik is planning to make this a regular feature of the centre’s activities, with courses round the year. “But its teachers who should really attend,” adds Das.