Indian Mathematical Achievements

Modern statue of Aryabhata, astronomer and mathematician in ancient India. Photo: Mukerjee.

Indian mathematicians and scientists made impressive innovations, especially in the first millennium C.E. Information from this unit could be used in math classes, ancient history classes, and those focusing on Indian’s contributions to the world.

Students will come to learn about Indian advancements in math and how they were affected by Indian culture and religion.  Through cross-cultural analysis students will compare and contrast advancements in math and science in India, and with other parts of the world.

Time Required
Two class periods, or one class period and one homework assignment

Handout: India's Work in Math
Access to the Internet for research

Reading comprehension, critical analysis, cross-cultural comparison, and research and writing skills.


  1. Read the handout out loud.
  2. Have your students highlight the mathematical terms they recognize.
  3. Ask your students to explain the significance of the various innovations discussed in this reading.
    • What was the motivation for some of the early mathematical insights in India?
    • How might Indian philosophy contribute to some of these insights?
  4. You may want to ask a Math teacher to join the discussion. If this lesson is used in a math class, have students compare these insights with advances made by European and Muslim mathematicians.
    • How has culture affected the process of discovery differently in the different societies? How has religion affected it?

The next day, or as homework assignmnet, ask your students to research an Indian mathematician and a European mathematician (preferably contemporaries) for them to compare and contrast in an essay.  Have them consider things like the mathematicians’ education, religion, and culture in looking at their discoveries.