Do the numbers give you the shivers? Gaurav Tekriwal, Founder, Vedic Maths Forum (India) might have a solution for you. His team has developed India's first AI enabled platform to learn Vedic Mathematics, world's fastest math system. Here he is in a freewheeling conversation with The Good City's Aditya Mendonca.
1. How did you get inspired to start this?
I have been teaching Vedic Maths for the last 18 years. This is the world’s fastest mental math system and you can calculate very quickly using this. I have tried using various media to promote Vedic Maths and to make Math fun.
I started back in 2000, by conducting Workshops and Seminars. Because of the immense response, I created a website and founded Vedic Maths Forum India. I even wrote books and and created DVDs to promote the subject. We got active on social media and made an app. I also got an opportunity to take this subject pan India via television programmes on two of India’s largest DTH (direct to home) companies. And it’s now the age of chatbots and AI.
I see chatbots as an immense potential to solve the problems of Maths education which we are going through. There is a global crisis in Math education. Math phobia is prevalent among students, teachers and even parents. There is an acute scarcity of math teachers around the world — so much so that no one wants to become a Math teacher anymore. The quality of lessons in classrooms is poor and private tutoring options are expensive and unaffordable.
In the bot based model, the teachers can guide a greater number of students at any given time and be present round the clock 24|7. The bot will take care of your performance and even tell you which areas you need to focus on to get a better score.
The Maths chatbot takes care of the problems of scale. The quality of lesson delivery is great and standardised. The Bot is affordable and doesn't cost a bomb to use. It is also very personalised. With these benefits I think that the Bot will start to cause a massive disruption in the years to come.
2. What kind of R&D went into producing an AI Bot for Vedic Mathematics?
My mentor, Pankaj Thakar, seeded the idea in my mind exactly a year back, and it was from April 2017 that we starting the process of building our own bot.
Making a chatbot is easy if you know basics of flowchart diagram. There are many platforms available like Chatfuel, Snatchbot, AWS etc - it’s not rocket science. But then making an entire platform to teach Maths required some serious technology. So we got interns and tech people to come and join our team. We spent about three months in research and understanding this new medium. Right now bots are in a stage where websites were in 1999. It is a new beginning and it is a sunrise sector.
The Tech team developed the platform in about four months and then came the hard part - writing the scripts to teach students Mathematics, and also taking a decision on the UI/UX. Overall we spent an year to come to this point. In the current platform we are using over 15 bots which will teach you complete Vedic Mathematics in a chat mode using AI algorithms.
3. Online learning is catching up - you have pointed out Khan Academy, Byjus and more - how is vedic maths different?
Vedic Maths is a system of Maths originating in India, through which you can do quick mental calculations. The chatbot is a platform where you have someone writing to you and interacting with you to learn this system. Its like you chatting with your teacher who is teaching you on, for example, Facebook Messenger. Khan Academy teaches you Math via videos and Byjus have their own app. This is going the next step – learning Math using interactive AI enabled chatbots.
4. You've expanded your team? What's been the hardest in the hiring space? Who all consist as your team?
Well our team consists of Maths teachers, Full-Stack Developers, and the Marketing and Sales team. It’s difficult to scout for people and find out what they are passionate about and align them to the company’s mission and vision. We are in Kolkata and it has a reputation of being an intellectual city. This has not failed us as we get the country’s best Maths teachers here.
5. What's the future from Vedic Math India? What's been the pain point you are solving?
Why can’t Maths be fun? Why does it have to be taught in a dull and boring way? Why can’t students ask questions without being mocked by their friends and the teacher? Why can’t innovative methods be made a part of the school curriculum? Why can't we have personalised learning for everybody?
We are solving the global pain point of Math phobia. Students get so scared by maths that it affects them when they grow up and become teachers and parents.
We are facing a global shortage of Maths teachers – as not many people want to be one. That’s where we step in and make a future of Maths learning personalised, fun and one on one –access to teachers.
6. Anything more that you would like to highlight?
Visit us on www.vedicmathsindia.org/math-chatbot/ and join us as we take baby steps to revolutionise Maths education. We will soon be launching more chatbots to cater to the School Curriculum and the Test Prep segment too for the Indian and the US Markets. Stay tuned for