Shakuntala Devi

Shakuntala Devi  was an Indian writer and mental calculator, popularly known as the “Human Computer”. Devi strove to simplify numerical calculations for students. Her talent earned her a place in the 1982 edition of The Guinness Book of World Records for her world record on 18 June 1980 at Imperial College, London. Devi was a precocious child and she demonstrated her arithmetic abilities at the University of Mysore without any formal education.

Where did she learn these skills?

By all accounts, Shakuntala Devi was entirely self-taught. Daughter of a circus performer, she travelled with her parents since she was three years old, and is said to have cultivated her calculating abilities while performing card tricks. Once she began to extract cube roots rapidly in her head, she became a performer exhibiting her skills. By the time she was a teenager, she was already travelling around the world, usually before audiences in colleges and universities.

Shakuntala Devi authored several books, including at least half a dozen on calculations, mathematical puzzles, and grooming children in mathematical skills. The books show she was familiar with certain mathematical concepts that one usually learns during a formal education. For example, in some of her writings she discusses trigonometry and logarithms. It is most likely that she learnt these concepts from extensive reading, but there is not much literature available on this aspect of her life.

SPARK draws inspiration from Shakuntala Devi for her grit to continue with showcasing her math prowess. She came from a humble background and it was her talent and grit that took her to places. Both our education institutions of SPARK and NIMka, have initiated Math learning, using multiple formats of Abacus, Vedic Maths and Math Laboratories to help children tide over this seemingly difficult subject. We at SPARK salute Shakuntala Devi for being a beckon for future generations.


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