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Why Are Indians Good at Math?
India has made important contributions in the evolution of mathematics. Aryabhatta, Brhamagupta and Bhaskara II are some of the famous mathematicians of ancient India. The concept of zero and the decimal system come from India. Important work was done in the field of algebra and trigonometry. There is Vedic mathematics which teaches various calculation techniques using sutras (rules). The growth and development of mathematicians would have reached the general population, making them interested and proficient in computing.
Another factor is the Indian socio-economic circumstances. Historically, engineers and doctors were the only professionals who had prospects for lucrative jobs. The number of places at the universities for these two lines was limited. To be admitted to engineering or medical school, a student must pass a very difficult entrance exam with an emphasis on math and science subjects. Only the best of the best can get into a reputable college or university. This made parents, students, teachers and the school system focus on doing well in math and science.
Rigor of mathematics
Children learn multiplication from early childhood. Every evening, you recite multiplication tables. This practice makes children good at mental math. As they grow, they begin to learn mathematical rules and formulas. Indian methodology is based on learning and practice. Children are made to solve many problems in each of the mathematical concepts so that it becomes second nature to solve the problems. Unlike the American system, the Indian education system does not give much importance to creative thinking and deep understanding of the subject. There are pros and cons to this approach. Pro is that there is less fear of mathematics: you mechanize calculations and problem solving. Being good and fast at basic math makes it easy to learn higher concepts. The disadvantage is the lack of innovation and creativity. But in a country with a population of more than a billion and not enough educational or job opportunities, being good at a test is essential to the short-term goal of getting into a career.
Rise of the IT industry
This talent for math and science and knowledge of the English language became great assets when the computer and software industry flourished. The US needed tons of software engineers. India had its potential base ready. Young graduates took advantage of this opportunity and took classes learning programming languages, databases and other technologies. Being good at math generally leads to being good at programming and analytical thinking. People who didn’t get into engineering schools and majored in Math or Physics also started doing diplomas and masters in computer applications. Year after year hundreds of thousands of Indians come to the US, get jobs in the IT sector and make the US their home. When they have family and children, they apply the Indian method to their children who go to American schools. Children of Indian origin living in the US excel in math and science. This trend also applies to children in other Asian countries.
Mathematics in the USA
In my opinion, US math books are very well written and illustrated. They explain the concept, history and application of a particular topic. This gives the child a complete education instead of learning the formula. However, the problem is the lack of rigor. Whether it’s physical or mental fitness, it takes strong discipline, regular exercise, and successive goals of improvement and achievement. Mathematics inherently needs practically. When you solve a math problem, it’s right or wrong—there are no grades like average or fair. To solve a problem correctly and quickly requires rigorous training. If teachers do not instill this discipline, students get more wrong answers than right ones. They get into the vicious cycle of “I’m not good at math, I hate math, why do we need math” and so on. If teachers can guide students into a regular program of math work, the circle can be reversed. They start solving problems, get excited and develop an interest in the subject. Confidence in math will increase and fear will disappear. After all, school math is not rocket science! If Indian students can be good at math, students from other countries can be good too.
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