What is Vedic Math?

The Magic of Vedic Maths

Wooden number puzzle.
David Gould

What does mathematics have to do with Hinduism? Well, just as the basic principles of Hinduism lie in the Vedas, so do the roots of mathematics. The Vedas, written around 1500-900 BCE, are ancient Indian texts containing a record of human experience and knowledge. Thousands of years ago, Vedic mathematicians authored various theses and dissertations on mathematics. It is now commonly believed and widely accepted that these treatises laid down the foundations of algebra, algorithm, square roots, cube roots, various methods of calculation, and the concept of zero.

Vedic Mathematics

'Vedic Mathematics' is the name given to the ancient system of mathematics, or, to be precise, a unique technique of calculations based on simple rules and principles, with which any mathematical problem - be it arithmetic, algebra, geometry or trigonometry - can be solved, hold your breath, orally!

Sutras: Natural Formulae

The system is based on 16 Vedic sutras or aphorisms, which are actually word-formulae describing natural ways of solving a whole range of mathematical problems. Some examples of sutras are "By one more than the one before", "All from 9 & the last from 10", and "Vertically & Crosswise". These 16 one-line formulae originally written in Sanskrit, which can be easily memorized, enables one to solve long mathematical problems quickly.

Why Sutras?

Sri Bharati Krishna Tirtha Maharaj, who is generally considered the doyen of this discipline, in his seminal book Vedic Mathematics, wrote about this special use of verses in the Vedic age: "In order to help the pupil memorize the material assimilated, they made it a general rule of practice to write even the most technical and abstruse textbooks in sutras or in verse (which is so much easier - even for the children - to memorize)...
So from this standpoint, they used verse for lightening the burden and facilitating the work (by versifying scientific and even mathematical material in a readily assimilable form)!"

Dr L M Singhvi, the former High Commissioner of India in the UK, who is an avid endorser of the system says: "A single sutra would generally encompass a varied and wide range of particular applications and may be likened to a programmed chip of our computer age".

Another Vedic maths enthusiast, Clive Middleton of vedicmaths.org feels, "These formulas describe the way the mind naturally works, and are therefore a great help in directing the student to the appropriate method of solution."

A Simple & Easy System

Practitioners of this striking method of mathematical problem-solving opine that Vedic maths is far more systematic, coherent and unified than the conventional system. It is a mental tool for calculation that encourages the development and use of intuition and innovation, while giving the student a lot of flexibility, fun and satisfaction. Therefore, it's direct and easy to implement in schools - a reason behind its enormous popularity among educationists and academicians.

Try These Out!

  • If you want to find the square of 45, you can employ the Ekadhikena Purvena sutra ("By one more than the one before"). The rule says since the first digit is 4 and the second one is 5, you will first have to multiply 4 (4 +1), that is 4 X 5, which is equal to 20 and then multiply 5 with 5, which is 25. Viola! The answer is 2025. Now, you can employ this method to multiply all numbers ending with 5.
  • If you want to subtract 4679 from 10000, you can easily apply the Nikhilam Navatashcaramam Dashatah sutra ("All from 9 and the last from 10"). Each figure in 4679 is subtracted from 9 and the last figure is subtracted from 10, yielding 5321. Similarly, other sutras lay down such simple rules of calculation.