~by Puja Sarma

It was intriguing for me to enter the classroom of Sarwan K. Aggarwal, a teacher brought by the ISW Cultural School. Mr. Aggarwal would be teaching the children something called “Vedic math”.

Vedic math is basically a different way to perform math problems. It is important to note that Vedic math dates back to the Rishis, some of the oldest of Indian ancestry. These Rishis converted complicated mathematical theories and laws into a more usable form for everyone. Even today, Vedic math can still be useful to these students.

I went into that classroom somewhat late, so Mr. Aggarwal was in the middle of his lesson. I saw a group of kids sitting there and watching him. I frowned, not knowing what was going on during most of the lesson, and it was unsettling to say, the least, that these children were answering away. He would write something down, call up one child, and the child would immediately solve the problem with some help from the rest of the class.

He was teaching the Vedic method of subtraction. This is something I finally understood once he showed it fully in the assembly. Subtraction here is done from “left to right”. It seems quite strange at first, but after a person learns all of the “sutras” or rules then they can master it. The kids in the assembly had little difference to the children in the classroom; after a while of breaking into the math problems, they all began interacting with one another to solve them. This class basically covered a brief history, two sutras, their applications, bar numbers, and their application to subtraction. For the rest of the year, it will include learning the sutras and learning how to apply them. Part of me, at this point, wished I was a young, Hindi student again so that I can use Vedic math to help me with my own math classes.

Mr. Aggarwal explained to me later on the usefulness of Vedic math to the children. It seems that learning new ways of doing math can open a child’s mind. As most math teacher’s say to any difficult problem, “think outside the box”.

NOTE: *IF there is anyone interested in learning more about VEDIC MATH, we will be offering a second session at ISW India Center on Saturdays, in spring. Please contact Shiamin Melville. Article submitted by PUJA SARMA, student at Algonquin Regional High School and Events Reporter for ISW Language & Cultural School*