Mathematics, the Paper Tiger

Mathematics and politics are the two wings which allow my imagination to soar high into the forbidden domains. Politics is synonymous for wisdom. Mathematics is synonymous for clarity. I possess great affinity for both. Living in conflict zones make people alert and smart. When I was a student I would frequently use Napier’s Log Tables to work out complicated mathematical calculations. I was fascinated by the genius of Napier and nursed a desire to unfold the secret that lay behind the making of these tables. But I could not get enough time to concentrate on solving the Napier’s riddle. It was in the start of 2012, that I finally started concentrating on unravelling the secret of log tables. But the firewall was too impermissive for the power of my imagination.

One moment I would think that I have got it the next moment it would slip off my brain. In three months’ time I was about to give up when the stunner from my grand-daughter hit me hard. “I hate mathematics!” I was taken aback. It was at this point of time I picked up a pen and drafted an article for publication in a newspaper, in which I wrote a hard-hitting indictment of math teaching at the primary levels. When my agitated mind became calm and serene I decided to postpone the idea of pursuing the exposition of the secret behind the log tables.

Instead I decided to audit the contents of math concepts from primary to graduation level mathematics, being taught in our schools and colleges. It was a long and arduous journey. Since I live at a place which is educationally backward, with no robust library to help me, I had to rely entirely upon the resource of my memory bank. Thus started my task of writing Mathematics, the critique in which I discussed some important math concepts. While going through the arithmetic portion I found that an entirely easy path is available to us for imparting math education to young students. The set theory proved to be a tougher field. But as soon as I sent the mathematician Venn on a sabbatical, the concept unfolded before me. The students will now be able to solve the problems with confidence and élan. I have also raised some very serious questions about class 12 matrix teaching.

While going through the calculus portion I became very alert and apprehensive. As a consequence the number system, the number line and argument of limits came under my high calibre math artillery fire. In the process I introduced the concept of Pythagoras plane and proved that while conducting integration we are no longer in the Cartesian plane.

The other topic which was always on the top of my mind was the concept of gravity. I have never been able to bring myself up to accepting the idea that earth attracted moving objects. A chance study of the values of perihelion and aphelion started alarm bells in me. A cursory analysis told me that the astronomers were using the ecliptic disc model of the solar system. From the data of aphelion and perihelion I could right away conclude the model was naïve and simplistic. Thus I burdened myself with the assignment of drafting the mathematical model of the solar system. During the course of drafting the story of the sun and its family, I calculated the distances of aphelion and perihelion and mailed the calculation sheet to J. V .Narlikar, Emeritus Professor, and also had a brief chat with him on phone. But the professor was kind enough to guide me to approach some institution situated in Kolkata which I missed to do.

The astronomers start with the big bang as the starting point of the creation of the universe. I took a different, gas field route to construct the story of our solar system. It is a mechanical engineer’s approach to looking up for answers. From the first massive hurricane to the story of evolution of life and her neural resources, the narrative becomes quite interesting. During the course of writing I had to call Newton and Einstein to the witness box but they failed to defend their turfs. My understanding of phenomenon of gravity is purely geometric in nature. The startling, perhaps sweeping assumptions led me to that force which dictated life to create the special cell- neuron. And it is perhaps the same force which supplies energy for the tectonic plate movement. But the surprising conclusion is that the moon was already in her slot when the earth arrived to circumambulate the sun. All the ideas about mathematics and solar system are original and virgin. I hope that the human knowledge will get an entirely fresh breath of air and new ideas to reinvent its working beliefs.

When I finished my work in December 2015, I went back to cracking Napier’s code. It is a matter of great satisfaction that I finally could accomplish what was my great desire. I cracked the code and compared the deviations around cardinal points with the values of log/anti-log tables.

I have, on many occasions spent time on or near shops selling school/college books, especially the guides and solved question banks to the students. I have seen anxious students buying hefty books which carry big price tags. My disturbed mind is now unable to distinguish between the societal underworld and the adult academic underworld. In the case of the former the small and big business is the target. The academic underworld on the other hand targets the state and the students (+ their parents). The logistic support is provided by ruthless authors and publishers, buttressed by the home grown Xerox cottage industry. The academic scenario in India generates no hope. But familiarity, as we know it, breeds acceptability!

The phobia of mathematics gets hold of the primary students ab initio. This is a global problem. In order to overcome this fear I have to offer new format of math teaching at the primary levels. This will deliver the budding students from the tyranny of unscrupulous traders and authors- the comrades in arms, the producers of high valued but irrelevant math books for squeezing every rupee from the gullible parents. The mathematics (let us keep geometry out of this discussion) is no science. It can’t claim parity even with the languages. The languages are the platforms, the mediums which carry and convey the knowledge of the sciences and humanities. The mathematics is like a mechanics tool box. It does hardly solve nature’s problems. It opens the self-created locks. We can do without mathematics, but not without languages. All those people who sell it as a science are only ensuring their own rozi-roti. That is why they are coming up every year with new tricks to make it big and difficult. And NCERT math authors are no different. The math books published by this institution are a pile of organised chaos. The question paper which follows will tell them that all is not well with the present day mathematics. They are not educating our teenagers. They are intimidating them. Maybe there is a motive involved!