Have you heard of Vedic math? This amazing Indian system makes math easier, faster and even (I swear!) fun.
The ancient math system was reconstructed from Sanskrit texts a century ago. Not only is it fascinating, but it also makes math much easier to do. It even works easily with complex algebraic equations, squaring large numbers, adding fractions and other tricky math problems.
The Vedic math site explains the history of the methods:
Vedic Mathematics is the name given to the ancient system of Indian Mathematics which was rediscovered from the Vedas between 1911 and 1918 by Sri Bharati Krsna Tirthaji (1884-1960). According to his research all of mathematics is based on sixteen Sutras, or word-formulae. For example, 'Vertically and Crosswise` is one of these Sutras. These formulae describe the way the mind naturally works and are therefore a great help in directing the student to the appropriate method of solution.
Perhaps the most striking feature of the Vedic system is its coherence. Instead of a hotch-potch of unrelated techniques the whole system is beautifully interrelated and unified: the general multiplication method, for example, is easily reversed to allow one-line divisions and the simple squaring method can be reversed to give one-line square roots. And these are all easily understood. This unifying quality is very satisfying, it makes mathematics easy and enjoyable and encourages innovation.
I've started using Vedic math with my own children (ages 9, 13 and 14) and we've all found it to be an easier way to do math. It's far easier to do problems in our heads and it's faster and easier to do them on paper. For instance, adding right to left and carrying that way means that we can solve large addition problems quickly in one line (see slideshow).
As the Vedic math site says:
The simplicity of Vedic Mathematics means that calculations can be carried out mentally (though the methods can also be written down). There are many advantages in using a flexible, mental system. Pupils can invent their own methods, they are not limited to the one 'correct' method. This leads to more creative, interested and intelligent pupils.
The site can be a little hard to navigate, but it's a gold mine of information, tutorials and tricks if you poke around enough.
Best of all, you can download an entire 173-page Vedic math teacher guide (in PDF format) from Vedic Math absolutely free. This book is designed for students in grades 3 through 7, though other ages can easily use it.
Be sure to also check out the free practice sheets.
There are other free resources on the site, as well, and numerous videos to help explain the system.
Discovering Vedic math reminds me very much of how my kids and I felt when we discovered short division. It's so nice to have easier ways of doing math, especially when they help make it more fun for everybody.
The more methods we can show our kids for getting the correct answer and the more we help our kids play with math, the more naturally it will come to them. This is especially helpful for kids (or adults!) with math phobias who have convinced themselves that they're bad at math.
Give it a try and see what you think.