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‘Vedic Maths’ : promotion of a particular brand of religious majoritarianism and associated obscurantist ideas

(Hindu right wing groups are making noise on the statement of Prof Raghunathan in International Congress of Mathematics 2010. we are posting an article written by Prof. S.G. Dani on the myth of so called ‘Vedic Maths’. Prof. S.G. Dani is Professor in Tata Institute of Fundamental Research and the chairman of National Board of Higher Mathematics. – Editor)

Vedic Maths’ : myths and facts
S.G. Dani

What is “Vedic” Mathematics? I am referring here what has popularly
come to be understood by that name, and not what it should strictly mean.
Going by the propaganda reports “Vedic Maths”’ is an “amazingly compact and
powerful system of calculation”, and one also hears things like “once you have
learnt the 16 sutras by heart, you can solve any long problem orally”, and so on.
Incredible hyperbole indeed !! Actually it is nothing of the sort. It is essentially
a compilation of some tricks in simple arithmetic and algebra. The term “trick”
is not used here in any pejorative sense, meaning to convey deceit of some sort.
It just means a short cut, with a bit of psychological appeal to it. “Vedic”
mathematics is indeed a collection of short cut procedures, applicable to only
an assortment of special situations, and quite an incoherent one at that. It is
thus really not a “system”, though there is a popular misconception to that
effect.
The so called Vedic mathematics (VM) first made its appearance in print in
the book ‘Vedic Mathematics’[12], first published in 1965, authored by Sri
Bharati Krishna Tirtha, who was the Shankaryacharya of the Puri Mutt
from 1925 until he passed away in 1960. The book was published posthumously
by some disciples of the Shankaracharya. The book presents some “sutras”,
claimed to be from the ancient Vedic lore, and describes some procedures,
supposedly coming from the sutras, to deal with some specific arithmetical/
algebraic problems. Some background about the genesis of the book may
be found in various write-ups included in the beginning of the book. Apparently
Tirthaji had earlier been giving demonstrations on the theme for some
decades, and there is a specific mention of some regular classes held at the Nagpur
University in 1952. The write-ups provide also a variety of other details.
Though on the whole one finds many specific details missing, and many statements
there would not stand logical scrutiny, the accounts are readable to get
an overall picture. In what follows we shall examine various issues about VM,
both internal to it and concerning its significance in the present overall context; Continue reading

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August 21, 2010 Posted by | articles, communalism, Education | 1 Comment

   

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