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HomeEducation'I broke Shakuntala Devi's record. Someone else will break mine' -...

‘I broke Shakuntala Devi’s record. Someone else will break mine’ – Neelakantha Bhanu

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Neelakantha Bhanu Prakash -the World’s Fastest Human Calculator.

Neelakantha Bhanu Prakash an ordinary lad from Hyderabad is today the World’s Fastest Human Calculator. He was just 17 when he broke the record held by legendary Shakuntala Devi. He was the first Indian and Asian to win the gold medal in Mental Calculation World Championship 2020 at Mind Sports Olympics, London.

Using his special abilities Bhanu aims to encourage students to love mathematics and eradicate the phobia in their minds. To do so he has started Bhanzu – a math ed-tech platform to revolutionize the maths learning experience globally. Excerpts from an exclusive interview with Taazakhabar News:

Neelakantha Bhanu Prakash - the World’s Fastest Human Calculator.

How old were you when you broke the math records of Shakuntala Devi? How did it feel?

I was 17 years old when I broke the math records of Shakuntala Devi. Every Indian is familiar with Shakuntala Devi and her achievements. She placed India on the global map in the arena of mental sports and mathematics in general. I being someone who has had the opportunity of breaking her world record is an honor.  Shakuntala Devi was an inspiration when I started participating in mental calculations and I could relate to her accomplishments.

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I understand you hold 4 World Records and 50 Limca Book Records in various categories – is it the beginning or end of your journey?

Breaking the world record is just the beginning of my journey. My aim is to eradicate Math Phobia globally. That’s the reason I started Bhanzu. While doing shows and teaching students across the world, I discovered that three out of four children absolutely dread math. As someone who has seen the maximum limits of mathematical competence and human cognition, this deeply concerned me.

Hence I decided to start Bhanzu – a math edtech startup. My team of 500 is working towards the vision to eradicate global math phobia and change the way students perceive math for a better world.

How does it feel to be called the World’s Fastest Human Calculator? It is but of course a well-deserved recognition of your special abilities but does it make you afraid that somebody, somewhere will one day come and snatch this title away from you?

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I believe that records are meant to be broken. I broke the records of Shakuntala Devi and Scott Flansburg. It’s only natural if someone else breaks my world record.

After I became the world’s fastest human calculator, India started talking about math as a mental sport. I would want to be the torch-bearer of promoting math as a sport and this excites me more than me being just a world record holder.

I would love for an Indian to break my record, but it would be even more special if a student of Bhanzu breaks my record.

Also Read: World’s Fastest Human Calculator all set to eradicate math phobia

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Is it true that you are capable of calculating faster than the speed of a calculator?

Yes, I am the World’s Fastest Human Calculator, and the name “World’s Fastest Human Calculator” refers to the fact that my calculation speed makes the calculator’s speed obsolete. My current record is that I can multiply any two-digit number 42 times in 15 seconds.

Please tell me about your family background and early childhood.

My childhood was fairly simple. I was a regular school-going kid in Hyderabad.

I met with an accident when I was five and I was then bedridden for a year. The doctor told my parents that since it was a head injury, it was better to stimulate my cognitive abilities by letting me solve puzzles, etc. That’s when I started solving puzzles and brainteasers.

I never thought I would be the fastest human calculator. I was just appearing in some competitions and I was winning them. I won the regional championship, the national championship twice, and I became the fastest human calculator in India. I then participated in the international championships. I happened to win the speed arithmetic championship at the age of 13.

I believe you had a head injury that made you bedridden for an entire year at the age of five. How did it help you develop your mathematical abilities?

Yes, back then my parents introduced me to puzzles and mental maths to keep my mind stimulation. Hence, I started solving puzzles when I was 5 years old. Later, my parents realized that I loved solving questions. So they did the fairly Indian thing and put me in chess classes and introduced me to math puzzles. Meanwhile, a couple of arithmetic championships happened around the same time and I participated in one of them and actually won the third prize. That’s when I began my journey of participating in mental math competitions.

How can an understanding of maths help children realize their true potential?

Children are not scared of languages – children are scared of maths. This is because the outcomes are expected to be way quicker than the journey. But when you give them confidence and context, they can do phenomenal things.

If we start teaching language like math, then it would be “here is a dictionary, learn all the words and then you can start speaking”

At Bhanzu, we make children four times quicker at maths in the first five months. That’s how they derive confidence, even in a world that uses calculators. Secondly, we give them context by weaving the right stories and showing mathematical learning as a part of human evolution.

India traditionally has been the land of Math legends –like Aryabhatta, Ramanujan, and Shakuntala Devi, still why is it that math is one of the most dreaded subjects not just in India and but all over the world?

Yes, and that concerns me the most. So I started Bhanzu where with my team I aim to eradicate math phobia. For me, it’s not a demand-supply gap that I’m solving for. It’s more about how, as an individual, I would want to see the education of millions of children pan out in the days to come because I love learning mathematics, and if that can be replicated across a million students, then I think we have done something.

How do you propose to eradicate this fear and help students become quicker and better at Mathematics?

At Bhanzu, we make children four times quicker at maths in the first five months. The USPs for Bhanzu are making children confident in mathematics by teaching them organic methods – not shortcuts, not tricks. Besides that, being the world’s fastest human calculator and having performed on stage in front of crowds brings a slightly different flavor to it and I think that’s the USP that sets Bhanzu apart.

What are your plans to make Bhanzu, a global math learning platform?

In the next three to four years, we would want to be the biggest math-learning platform. The reason we believe in this is that Bhanzu stands for eradicating global math phobia, making it interesting for students, inspiring children into taking up mathematics and related things, and contextually speaking on building math confidence.

The long-term goal is to eradicate global math phobia through Bhanzu

How exactly does Bhanzu propose to make maths an enjoyable learning experience for every child?

We at Bhanzu don’t treat maths as a subject but as a part of everyday life.  We try to humanize the subject. The USPs for Bhanzu are making children confident in mathematics by teaching them organic methods – not shortcuts, not tricks.

At Bhanzu, we make children four times quicker at maths in the first five months. That’s how they derive confidence, even in a world that uses calculators. Secondly, we give them context by weaving the right stories and showing mathematical learning as a part of human evolution.

Recently you seem to have raised funding of $ 15 million how would this help you enhance your infrastructure and create an extraordinary learning experience?

In the next few months, we are planning to expand our customer base. We will be building a solid forte in terms of the philosophies I mentioned, becoming four times quicker and better at calculations and basic arithmetic.

Southeast Asia and the Middle East are the two geographies that we are focusing on in the next eight to nine months, and then maybe, we would go to the west.

I think we are looking at sustainable growth, increasing the number of students who you’re catering to not only in India but outside, we would want to take incremental steps on it.

I believe you personally curated Bhanzu’s curriculum based on extensive research on global best practices. What kind of effort did it take?

After earning the title of the World’s Fastest Human calculator I had the opportunity to visit 23 countries around the world. Through my visits, I discovered that 3 out of 4 students across the globe suffer from math phobia of some form. Since then I have spent 4+ years on research and have developed a unique math curriculum. In Bhanzu we teach the concepts of technology – coding and AI through the lens of math, just how it should be done.

Are you primarily going to focus just on maths or likewise promote other subjects like physics, or chemistry in the domain of science, and engineering?

Our goal is to teach math and teach real-life applications of math. This covers topics such as Math in AI, math in technology, math in music and arts among others.

We are teaching students to see the world through the lens of math

What kind of preparations did you put in to win India’s first Gold Medal at the Mind Sports Olympics in 2020? How was the experience, I believe you were the first Indian and Asian to win the Mind Sports Olympics, in London?

As far as preparation is concerned, I already have four World Records and 50 Limca Records in my name by then, so I was more than aware of what to expect. I put one month of effort into understanding and getting myself back on track because I was inactive from mental calculation championships for a while because I was trying to figure out how my skills could be used to help people [the output of which was the Bhanzu curriculum]. So the real preparation was to brush up on my skills and get back on track.

What is your ultimate goal or mission in life, and how do you plan to fulfill it?

We want every child to realize the potential of their mind and help them transition from fearing math to having a deeper understanding of the universe through math. I would like to work towards this for a long time to come. I started Bhanzu to fulfill this goal.

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Taazakhabar News Bureau
Taazakhabar News Bureau
Taazakhabar News Bureau is a team of seasoned journalists led by Neeraj Mahajan. Trusted by millions readers worldwide.


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