How a child with a broken skull grew up ‘world’s fastest human calculator’

While the average person is still reaching for his calculator, 20-year-old Neelkanth Bhanu Prakash already has the answer.

It is 63,470,861,269 and it takes just 26 seconds for Bhanu, known as the “world’s fastest human calculator” in India, to put it in his head.

According to the Limca Book of Records – India’s equivalent of the Guinness World Records – Bhanu’s brain is on average 12 per second, about 10 times faster than a regular brain.

Bhanu He states that he is capable of performing such complex calculations at breakneck speed through “structured exercises”.

“I say I’m multiplying 8,763, multiplying by eight,” he says. “I would probably multiply: eight to eight which is 64,000, 700 to eight which is 5,600, 60 to eight which is 480, three to eight is 24. And I add all these. But for this the human brain It is necessary to remember this.

“The methods I use are similar to normal methods, but some things – basically (it) are brain optimizations. I adapt my methods and make them better than before.

“At the end of the day whatever I say my ways, sometimes it’s just. There’s a definite process, obviously, but since you’ve trained your brain, it just happens.”

On 15 August, Bhanu, Hyderabad, in the southern state of Telangana, India, became the first Asian to win gold at the Mental Count World Championship at the Mind Sports Olympiad (MSO) in London. He is also the first non-European winner in the 23-year history of the event.

At the start of his competition, Bhanu captured gold by beating 29 opponents from 13 countries – his pace was so extraordinary that the judges made him jump through extra hoops and solve more calculations to confirm his accuracy .

Just don’t call him prodigy.

“Definitely not, because the word ‘prodigy’ bothers me a bit because it doesn’t just capture effort and experience, it’s just a state that is not attained from anywhere,” says Bhanu, saying that He did not have exceptional mathematical abilities. Come easy.

In fact, all of this could have been very different.

At the age of 10, Bhanu won the Mathematics Tournament trophy in 2010.

fatal blow

In 2005, at the age of 5, Bhanu fell from his cousin’s scooter when he was hit by a truck, and hit his head on the road.

Bhanu ruined his skull. He required 85 stitches and several operations before being put into a medically induced coma by doctors.

When he woke up about seven days later, doctors told his parents that Bhanu could be cognitively impaired for the rest of his life due to an injury to his head.

He spent the following year.

“That accident changed the way my entertainment was defined and that’s why I’m here today.”

During his recovery, Bhanu learned to play chess and solve riddles to keep his brain connected – eventually progressing to math problems.

“I remember the pain … it’s the most painful experience of my life,” he recalls. “I couldn’t even go to school for a year. I had to rely on numbers and puzzles to get better.”

The head injury left him with “ugly looking scars”. To protect her feelings, Bhanu’s parents removed all the mirrors from around the house for a year. But he tried to determine that the scars did not define him. “It pushed me forward and I knew there was something I’m good at and I would prove myself there,” he says.

In 2007, at the age of 7, Bhanu finished third in the sub-junior category in the state level speed arithmetic competition in the state of Andhra Pradesh. His performance left his father in tears, Bhanu says. “It was not a medal, it was what took me there, that moved my father,” he says.

Bhanu has since won several, including the open category in India’s 2011 National Speed ​​Arithmetic competition. And at the age of 13, he represented India in international competition and broke four world records for powers of 4 and 2: fastest human calculation, power multiplication, super subtraction and mental arithmetic.

He has also broken 50 Limca records, comparing with the great Indian mathematician Shakuntala Devi.

“When I’m trying to make a world record it’s almost like the world around me,” Bhanu explains, comparing it to a DC Comics superhero.

“It’s like ‘The Flash’ – where it blurs when he moves everything around. It sure sounds good, but to actually do these complex calculations at this pace seems extremely liberating.” .

“So firing neurons in the brain makes us believe that we are capable of doing things we don’t imagine. So I would say that you almost feel like a superhero. Almost.”

Bhanu's head injury left him with a scar, but he was determined not to define it.

Make math cool

Bhanu says he is passionate about his goal, “to erase math phobia”, many of us have fearful feelings towards mathematics that can lead us to avoid situations in which we had to calculate And has a negative impact on our life choices.

According to a study published in the Current Directions in the journal Science in 2002: “There are highly math-anxious individuals with a strong tendency to avoid mathematics, which ultimately underline their math ability and influence important career paths. “
In 2018, Bhanu founded Exploring Infinities, an educational organization aimed at making mathematics cool, challenging, interesting and immersive by tracking cognitive ability development through arithmetic games.

“My experience started from the day I went to a rural government school (in India) and the kids there didn’t realize that multiplication was repetitive,” explains Bhanu. “That’s why a raga struck and when I started my firm.”

The organization, which has half a million customers, operates at the grassroots level in India and, ex-Coronavirus, conducts math bootcamps in Bangladesh and Indonesia. Its digital learning program also has students from the United Kingdom and the United States.

“Bhanu dominated the Mental Calculations World Championship and was 65 points ahead of everyone else,” says Eton Effeld, CEO of Mind Sports Olympiad.

“He continues to inspire TEDx through his outreach work and through his startup Inspiring Infinities, which emphasizes that anyone can improve their math skills and make the world a better place “.

Bhanu does mathematics with two aspiring young mathematicians.
Bhanu’s recent success attracted India’s attention President Ram Nath Kovind And vice president M. Venkaiah Naidu, Who congratulated him on his MSO victory.

After years of struggle for state funding to participate in international competitions, he hopes his victory will usher in a new era of support for India’s aspiring mathematicians to compete globally.

“For any country to grow and develop globally, numeracy is as important a skill as literacy,” he says.

“Three out of every four students studying in government schools in India have trouble understanding basic mathematics.”

Bhanu says that his first MSO win may also be his last in the tournament, as he focuses on his philanthropic work.

“I’m not sure I’m going to participate in competitions anymore,” he says. “I don’t think I need to. I have established my point that I am fast. I am in a position that people listen to me, I use it better.”

“I don’t want to be the face of mathematics – there are enough of them and they are extraordinary. I want to be the face against the math phobia. Very simple.”