the Spirit of Mahatma Gandhi lives through every nonviolent action

Mathemetics in Perespective of Mahatma Gandhi

Dr. Yogendra Yadav

Gandhian Scholar

Gandhi Research Foundation, Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India

Contact No – 09404955338

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Mathematics in Perspective of Mahatma Gandhi

Mathematics is the abstract study of subjects. Its resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures. The research required to solve mathematical problems can take years or even centuries of sustained inquiry. Mathematical structures are good models of real phenomena, and then mathematical reasoning can provide insight or predictions about nature. Mahatma Gandhi knew it’s important in life of human being. So he encouraged always to his sons for study of Mathematics. He encouraged his associates also. He wrote it’s important in his letters. He spoke in number of meetings about its important. Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I know that Manilal is weak in his arithmetic. Please give him adequate attention.”1

Mathematics is the systematic study of the shape and motion of any physical objects. Practical mathematics has a record of human activities.

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Also, be regular with the exercises in Arithmetic.”2 Mahatma Gandhi suggested, “The morning hours should be devoted to the most important activities. It will do if you make it a rule to do a large number of sums in arithmetic.”3 Mahatma Gandhi told, “Boys will be taught their own language that is, Gujarati or Hindi and, if possible, Tamil, as also English, arithmetic, history, geography, botany and zoology.”4

The famous Mathematician Galileo said that the universe cannot be read until we have learned the language and become familiar with the characters in which it is written. It is written in mathematical language, and the letters are triangles, circles and other geometrical figures, without which means it is humanly impossible to comprehend a single word.  Mahatma Gandhi said, “The ordinary meaning of education is a knowledge of letters. To teach boys reading, writing and arithmetic is called primary education.”5 Mahatma Gandhi described, “Mental training is given for three and a half hours at least, consisting of the vernaculars of the respective scholars, English, Arithmetic, and so much of history and geography as may arise from the lessons in English or in the vernacular.”6 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Arithmetic will certainly include oral sums and Indian accountancy.’7

Mathematics is used throughout the world as an essential tool in many fields. The branch of mathematics concerned with application of mathematical knowledge to other fields inspires and makes use of new mathematical discoveries, which has led to the development of entirely new mathematical disciplines. There is no clear line separating pure and applied mathematics without having application in mind. Mahatma Gandhi told, “Our boys can solve intricate mathematical problems but are ignorant of simple arithmetic useful in business. They have very little knowledge of the indigenous tables.”8 Mahatma Gandhi told, “If a boy attends the school with his nails grown and filled with dirt, the teacher can ask him, even during the period for arithmetic, why his nails are dirty and what he had been taught on this point.”9

Indian mathematics emerged in the end of the 18th century. In the classical period of Indian mathematics (400 AD to 1200 AD), important contributions were made by scholars like Arybhatta, Bhaskar-II. The decimal number system is given to world by India.  Indian mathematicians made early contributions to the study of the concept of zero as a number. Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “In teaching Arithmetic and other allied subjects, too, the traditional method hardly finds any place. It is almost completely abandoned. With the disappearance of the indigenous method of learning tables, we have lost the capacity for making speedy calculations which our elders possessed.”10 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Mathematics will include Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry and Trigonometry. In other words, the pupils will be brought up to the level of the present First Year of the College.”11

Mahatma Gandhi told, “Everyone doing a sum in arithmetic has to start again from the point where he might have gone wrong. We also should do the same.”12 Mahatma Gandhi said, “A good teacher can make even a dry subject like Arithmetic interesting.’13 Mahatma Gandhi told, “We may deduce by a simple rule of arithmetic that it must be equally possible for millions of Hindus and millions of Mussalmans if only they will it.”14 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Those who have not made preliminary preparations are quite unfit to breathe the rarefied atmosphere in high altitudes, or those who have no preliminary training in simple mathematics are unfit to understand or assimilate higher geometry or algebra.”15

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “My time has been much occupied in preparing a re-arrangement of the text-books in both mathematics and physics for my pupils, such as will conform to their experience. All English text-books, and even the Indian ones, are apparently written for city-bred children and presuppose familiarity with machinery and manufactured apparatus of all kinds. These children here have never seen automobiles, steam engines, electric lights, pumps, water-pipes, or even bullock-carts. So the assumptions, pictures, technical terms and arrangement of the text-books of physics, and even of much of mathematics can have no reality and therefore no interest or educational value for them. Gradually, therefore, I am putting together what will be in effect a text-book on science and mathematics for Indian village children. Since most of the children of India are in the villages, I hope it will be useful.”16

Mahatma suggested, “We do a sum in mathematics with the help of our reasoning faculty. It does not matter whether or not we have faith in mathematics. But, for spiritual knowledge, faith is essential.”17

Mahatma Gandhi described, “In our institution, everything will be taught in a way opposite to that in a Government school. Our teacher will solve mathematical problems in a different way. Gregg is composing a novel science of mathematics for the Indian children whom he teaches. Our teacher should not teach with the help of the distance between Manchester and Liverpool. He should frame his examples from conditions here, so that our history and geography too maybe learnt from this. We have to reconstruct everything, mathematics, history, economics, geography. If you students do not help in this, what can the teachers do? And if the teachers themselves are immature it is obvious that the principles will crumble. My language need not be considered mathematical just because I use mathematical terms. But if it is as exact as mathematics, that is, if its successive steps in reasoning are logical and exact, it may be described as mathematical. If my language has that quality, it is because of my worship of truth.”18

Ancient and medieval Indian mathematical works all composed in ancient languages. Which a set of rules or problems were stated with great economy in verse in order to aid memorization by a student. Mahatma Gandhi told, “The teacher must ask himself why the disc has that particular diameter, no more and no less. When he has solved these questions satisfactorily and has gone into the mathematics of the thing, your pupil becomes a good engineer.”19 Mahatma Gandhi said, “With the help of mathematics he can explain the mechanism of the charkha in great detail.”20

Mahatma Gandhi suggested, “I have never claimed to present the complete science of nonviolence. It does not lend itself to such treatment. So far as I know no single physical science does, not even the very precise science of mathematics. I am but a seeker, and I have fellow-seekers like the questioner whom I invite to accompany me in the very difficult but equally fascinating search.”21 Mahatma Gandhi did a lot. But he had no sufficient time for it.





  1. LETTER TO CHHAGANLAL GANDHI; February 7, 1907
  2. LETTER TO MANILAL GANDHI; After August 16 1913
  3. LETTER TO MANILAL GANDHI; April 3, 1914
  4. VOL. 9 : 23 JULY, 1908 - 4 AUGUST, 1909 Page- 245
  5. VOL. 10 : 5 AUGUST, 1909 - 9 APRIL, 1910 Page-298
  6. VOL. 12: 15 JULY, 1911- 8 MARCH, 1913 Page-178
  8. VOL. 15: 21 MAY, 1915 - 31 AUGUST, 1917 Page- 325
  10. VOL. 16 : 1 SEPTEMBER, 1917 - 23 APRIL, 1918 Page- 90
  11. VOL. 16 : 1 SEPTEMBER, 1917 - 23 APRIL, 1918 Page-103
  12. VOL. 23 : 6 APRIL, 1921 - 21 JULY, 1921 Page- 122
  13. VOL. 29 : 16 AUGUST, 1924 - 26 DECEMBER, 1924 Page-6
  14. Hindi Navajivan, 2-11-1924
  15. VOL.32 : 17 JUNE, 1925 - 24 SEPTEMBER, 1925 Page- 336
  16. VOL. 36 : 8 JULY, 1926 - 10 NOVEMBER, 1926 Page- 311
  17. June 17, 1926
  18. Navajivan, 17-6-1928
  19. VOL. 75 : 30 JANUARY, 1939 - 30 MAY, 1939 Page- 32

MEETING, May 5, 1939

  1. Harijan, 22-2-1942




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