World’s fastest human computer on a mission to eradicate math phobia

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BY MOHAMMED SHAFEEQ
Hyderabad, Aug 27 (IANS)
Neelakantha Bhanu Prakash, who emerged as world’s fastest human computer by winning the Mental Calculation World Championship at Mind Sports Olympiad in London earlier this month, is all set to embark on a mission to eradicate mathematics phobia both in India and abroad.
The 20-year-old Hyderabadi, who became the first Indian and also the first Asian to win the gold in the 23-year-old history of the Mind Sports Olympiad, has ‘vision math’ to eradicate math phobia across the world and make it lovable.
He believes that the coveted title has catapulted him to a position where he can be a brand ambassador to change the very way mathematics is perceived in the country.
“In India my vision is to eradicate math phobia to encourage experiential mathematical learning. All of this can happen and will happen when there is one person who people relate to and that is something which I would want to be,” Bhanu told IANS.
This maths prodigy is keen to make brain training a daily and popular culture like gym culture for physical fitness.
A graduate in maths from St. Stephen College, Delhi, Bhanu emerged the winner at Mental Calculation World Championship, which saw competitors from 13 countries vying for the top honors on August 15.
“They were all selected on the basis of their past performances. Since I hold few world records I was also invited. This time because of Covid-19 it was an online competition but it was lengthier and tougher. This is the first time that somebody from Asia won the gold medal at this competition and it was a proud moment for India.”
He feels excited as he will use the spotlight on him to change things around and to make sure that children learn maths as a fun.
He is keen to be a game changer like badminton star Pullela Gopichand or chess champion Viswanathan Anand who with their historic victories changed the landscape of these games in the country.
Stating that India currently has had no icons in mathematics, especially after the social media boom, he believes that as a good public speaker he can inspire millions of kids to not only take up maths but also be good at it.
“This accreditation stamp makes things much more oriented give him a recognition can beat brand of change not only at the helm of calculation or sports but mathematics as an education field
Bhanu is of the view every country should have two goals in education – literacy and numeracy. He believes that while in literacy India managed well with hefty programs enough to cater to people to learn at least one language, there was hardly anything in numeracy.
He wants mental calculation to be encouraged as sport. “The reason is if math is an ocean, the first wave is arithmetic. If you can quickly manoeuvre this, it will give you confidence to do well in mathematics at large. My aim is not to make people do quick calculations. Quick calculation has its own interest but at the end of the day vested interest of the country lies in having mathematic professionals who ace technology, engineering and global domination in terms of research and a lot of other things,” he said.
He feels that maths phobia and arithmetic phobia can be eradicated through games and through mathematical and mental calculation.
“Games are the first step towards leading kids in not hating mathematics,” said Bhanu, who holds four world records and 15 Limca records for being the fastest human calculator.
He rubbished the argument why one should do calculation when there are calculators.
“You don’t do calculations to be quicker than a calculator. Usain Bolt doesn’t run because he doesn’t have a car. Calculation is flaunting of mental fitness. Calculation is brain gym, otherwise we will become mentally obese,”
He believes fear of maths can be removed from the minds of students when math is made fun. He said a beginning in this direction could be with the government sponsored math academies.
“Child is an art. But he develops a fear of maths because we have tested them too often on tasks we don’t mean anything to them. Playing with numbers actually is fun.”
Bhanu was a mathematical whiz kid when he enrolled himself for SIP Abacus program when he was give. He completed 9 levels of Abacus, Grand Master program offered by SIP Academy. He went on to win the International Abacus Champion 2013 and National Abacus Champion 2011 and 2012.
His start-up Exploring Infinities (EI) is working with 60 government schools in Telangana.
“I founded the start-up to boost up children’s cognitive development and to popularize mental arithmetic with novel games through workshops and courses in schools,” he said.
He is also running some programs in countries like Bangladesh, Nepal and Indonesia.
He pointed out that these are individual programmes and he wants to do something on a larger scale by forging tie-ups with governments.

(Mohammed Shafeeq can be reached at m.shafeeq@ians.in)

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