December 22nd of every year is celebrated as National Mathematics Day, marking the birthday of the famous Indian mathematician, Srinivasa Ramanujan. This particular day aims to honour his achievements and thereafter recognise him as one of the greatest maths legends. In the contemporary world, children often develop maths anxiety if they haven't mastered the basic mathematics skills early and correctly. When the student does not understand the basic concepts, it becomes almost impossible to understand the subject as it increases in complexity - leading to the common fear of mathematics that we see in so many students.
On this National Mathematics Day, The Telegraph Online Edugraph brings you insider tips from Neelakantha Bhanu Prakash to capture this fear. Bhanu Prakash is also known as the World’s Fastest Human Calculator. Read on to know more..
- How did you earn the tag of the world’s fastest human calculator?
At the age of five, I met with a fatal accident that forced me to miss school and left me bedridden for an entire year. It was around this time that the doctor informed my parents that I might be cognitively impaired as a result of the head injury. So, to keep my mind active, my parents introduced me to various puzzles and mental maths. I happened to compete in various speed maths calculation competitions and eventually won that championship also. That gave me a boost, and I continued to compete in similar competitions.
I broke a number of world records in a variety of categories. I hold 4 world records and 50 Limca records: The Fastest Human Calculator Record, Super Subtraction Record, Power Multiplication Record, and others. In these competitions, it was discovered that I can calculate 12-13 numbers per second, which is 10 times faster than the average human.
2. How can students fight their fear of mathematics?
Fear of mathematics grows among students because of how it is taught to them. Students are taught maths with a preconceived notion. I believe that humanising the subject is the best way to overcome this fear of maths. Maths should be taught in an engaging manner to students worldwide. Every child should be encouraged to learn how to apply maths in real life. We do not ask children to learn the dictionary and then begin speaking when we teach language. Rather, we teach the alphabet first, followed by words, and so on. The same is true for maths, which allows students to understand how maths is used.
Maths is generally taught in schools by making the students memorise the formula, followed by solving a few questions in class and the rest is given for homework. By doing this students are just mugging up the concept and are not able to understand the application of that concept.
I believe that by questioning the concept of maths, one can develop an interest in it. Asking why the concepts are being developed. Understanding and comprehending mathematicians' thoughts behind concepts and theories can aid in debunking the myth of fear. When a person learns about the history of a concept, it becomes more interesting to him. Once a student understands the significance of the concepts, he will be eager to learn.
With 4+ years of research and constant experimentation, I have developed a curriculum that is known as the present-day Bhanzu’s curriculum - I started Bhanzu to eradicate global maths phobia.
Source: Neelakantha Bhanu Prakash
3. What according to you is the importance of Speed Math Calculation as a sport?
I never learned maths just as a subject to pass the examination, rather I had fun learning the subject. It was interesting to me because I learned it as a sport. Speed maths calculation helped me gain interest in the subject. I started participating in various speed maths calculation competitions and eventually won it.
People already perceive maths as a subject only for geniuses, but when we start considering it as a sport we change the narrative around the subject. Maths is then no longer left as a tool to pass examinations. Speed maths calculation is a sport that you play with your mind. Just like how playing physical sports keeps our body fit, engaging in mind sports keeps your mind fit & running.
The objective of mind sports is to test our mental strength rather than our physical strength. Speed Math calculation provides children with an excellent opportunity to learn through enjoyment, and excel with healthy competition while developing their memory, and focus.
Speed maths calculation doesn’t only make students good at maths but it also helps students make better decisions. It also helps children to easily digest and remember complex information. It improves a child's concentration and inspires them to keep learning. It motivates children to find creative ways to solve problems.
4. Why is Ramanujan's number '1729' considered a magical number?
Ramanujan’s most fascinating discovery still remains the Hardy-Ramanujan number ‘1729.’ The Hardy-Ramanujan number derives from an anecdote when a British mathematician GH Hardy visited S Ramanujan in a hospital. Hardy claimed to have arrived in a taxi with the number '1729,' which he described as "a rather dull one." On that, Ramanujan said, "No, Hardy, it's a fascinating number!" He explained that it is the smallest number that can be expressed as the sum of two cubes in two different ways.
1729 is the sum of the cubes of 10 and 9. The cube of 10 is 1000, and the cube of 9 is 729. Both the cubes, therefore, add up to 1729. 1729 is also the sum of the cubes of 12 and 1. The cube of 12 is 1728, and the cube of 1 is 1. Both the cubes, therefore, add up to 1729.
Ramanujan was the first Indian scientist to be accepted as a Fellow of the Royal Society, London, a top honour given by the British scientific establishment. Ramanujan’s contributions made India proud and got us recognition at an international level in the field of maths.
5. Throw some insights on your first maths teacher and how they played a crucial role in helping you develop this interest for the subject.
I met with a life-threatening accident at the age of 5, which eventually introduced me to speed maths calculation. It was speed maths calculation that developed my interest in maths. Since then, I've started looking at the world from the perspective of maths. My best teacher was my life's circumstances, which led to where I am today. I believe that as humans, we have the ability to turn any circumstance into our best opportunity. With the support of my parents and family, I was able to turn my entire year of misery, stuck at home, into the most productive year of my life.
Shakuntala Devi was always my inspiration, and I believe she was not just my inspiration but an inspiration for the entire nation. Breaking her record was an honour in itself. By being part of different championships, I observed that India’s representation in the field of maths at the international level is very limited, and I want to change that. I wouldn’t have realised this without my parents introducing me to puzzles and speed maths calculations at a very young age.
About Neelakantha Bhanu Prakash: Known as the World’s Fastest Human Calculator, Hyderabad’s Neelakantha Bhanu Prakash is the Founder and CEO of Bhanzu, an Indian maths ed-tech platform aiming to revolutionise the learning experience of maths globally. By the age of 17, he had broken world records of maths legends like Shakuntala Devi. He was the first Indian and Asian to win the gold medal in Mental Calculation World Championship 2020 at Mind Sports Olympics, London and was celebrated by the President of India, Vice President of India and many other global personalities. As an inspiration to many aspiring fertile minds, Bhanu stepped out of his comfort zone to build a cognitive curriculum that will make learning maths more fun and relatable to students.