Saturday, June 27, 2009

Speed Math

Late Jakow Trachtenberg, a mathematical genius, found simple ways of understanding and working with numbers, which, as we know conventionally, look like they're entangled in a complex web of calculations. Calculations tire us and make us shun math because of their nature and the dullness that sets in, especially while dealing with long numbers. This attitude towards math, he says, is primarily due to the lengthy procedures conventionally used for calculations, which do not present us with any direct way to understand numbers and the way the numbers are used to arrive at a result of the mathematical operation performed. For example, if we have to multiply 2 three digit numbers, we cannot do it without putting pen on paper, which is work, and then, we need to know the tables right, at least up to 9 times 9, and then, the carry over values which we need to remember to add. What more, we are very likely to have errors at the end and checking the whole process all over again leaves us frustrated. However, Trachtenberg shows us an easy way out by simple methods, more number-centric than procedure-centric so we know exactly how we are getting a result out of the operation performed on the given numbers. One can write down the product of any 2 numbers, however huge they may be, just by looking at the numbers and performing the required steps mentally using his system which he found through algebra. When I got my hands on this book explaining his work, adapted by Ann Cutler and Rudolph McShane, I was delighted to know math could be so easy! In this book, he gives simple ways of performing basic mathematical operations like addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, squaring and finding square roots along with interesting ways to multiply any number with the first 9 numbers in the introduction. It presents a wonderful alternative to teach basic math to children and comes as a relief to anyone who has been bearing the burden of performing lengthy calculations till now, ignorant of this system. Happy Calculating!