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‘We need new applications in maths for economic growth’

education Updated: Oct 30, 2013 10:58 IST
Aanchal Bedi

From Sulbasutras (the first Indian texts dealing explicitly with mathematics) which offered the Pythagoras theorem, to the decimal place value system and the number zero, India has a rich mathematical tradition. However, a country once boasting of renowned mathematics geniuses such as Aryabhata, Bhaskara, and Srinivasa Ramanujan, is today lagging behind others when it comes to advanced research in mathematical sciences.

“Research is happening but there is still a long way to go. There are two reasons why we have not been able to make an impact internationally. From Google search to weather prediction and cyber security, mathematics plays a key role in the modern-day world. Unfortunately, however, people are not aware of the relevance of mathematics and how important research really is in mathematical ­sciences,” says Balasubramanian Ramachandran, director, Institute of Mathematical Sciences in Chennai.
Ramachandran also rues the fact that India does not have the right environment to foster development of new applications in mathematics. Significant investment in training and research in mathematical sciences is the need of the hour, he says.

Explaining the economic value of research in mathematical sciences, Emmanuel Ullmo, director, Institut des Hautes Etudes Scientifiques, France, says, “As per a report commissioned by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council based in the UK, the estimated contribution of mathematics to the UK economy in 2010 was around 10% of all jobs in the UK and around 16% of the total UK GVA (Gross Value Added). This proves that mathematics is essential for ­economic growth.”

Govindan Rangarajan, director, Indo-French Centre for Applied Mathematics, says that training of students in modern techniques of applied mathematics is lacking in India. “We need to promote interaction between academics and industries through study groups, brainstorming sessions and industrial internships.”

Moreover, students today have a misconception that mathematics as a subject can only lead to a career in teaching. Therefore, the brightest minds are not engaged in research. “Opportunities are available in fields such as information technology, academics, insurance, automobile sector, banking, and financial services,” says Ramachandran.

Job avenues are also open in government departments like the Indian Space Research Organisation, Defence Research and Development Organisation, National Aeronautics Limited. Cryptology, is also gaining ­popularity.