Author Archives: Omkar Deshpande

Summer Class 2015: The Story of Numbers


Join us this summer for a 5000 year-old global journey into the origins and evolution of humanity’s concept of number. The journey will take us from paleolithic tally marks near the shores of a lake in Congo, to the quipus of the Incas, from clay tokens used by Neolithic farmers in Mesopotamia, to the occult religion of the Pythagoreans having numbers at its core. We will take a peek into the secret teachings of the Egyptian scribes in the mathematical Rhind Papyrus, the calendars of the Mayans, the bamboo rods of the Chinese, cuneiform clay tablets of the Babylonians, and the use of zero as an independent number in India. Major figures whose contributions we will consider include Euclid, Eratosthenes, Archimedes, Al-Khwarizmi, Leonardo of Pisa (Fibonacci), Simon Stevin, Descartes, Gauss, Euler, Fermat and Cantor. The contributions of every major civilization will be considered, and starting from the very rudimentary roots of number sense, we will proceed all the way to the modern notion of number. We will cover the various types of numbers — natural numbers, negative numbers, rational numbers, irrational numbers, real numbers, complex numbers, algebraic numbers, transcendental numbers and transfinite numbers, along with their history. We will also cover special numbers — zero, prime numbers, Fibonacci numbers, infinity, pi, e, i and the various orders of infinity.

Click here for a more detailed course description, including prerequisites.

A University of California approved course!

This class fulfills the year-long elective requirements on the UC a-g list and counts for credit and college GPA, in addition to having a transcript.

Timings and Venue:

Our 6-week summer camp will be held from June 15 to July 24, 2015.

Classes will be held on Mon & Wed from 9 am to 12.30 pm.

The classes will be held at 21050 McClellan Road, Cupertino, CA 95014. We are partnering with Legend College Preparatory school to offer this class. Transcripts will be issued by Legend College Preparatory school.

Maximum class size will be 15 students, so only 15 spots are available!

Instructors and Course Designers:

Omkar Deshpande

Principal Engineer at WalmartLabs.
M.S & Ph.D, Computer Science, Stanford University
B.Tech, Computer Science and Engineering, IIT Delhi

Vivek Kaul

Data Scientist at Facebook
M.S & Ph.D, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Georgia Tech
B.Tech, Aerospace Engineering, IIT Bombay


The complete course will cost 1555$.

Contact Information and Registration Information:

If you have any questions, please email To register, please click here.

Academic Endorsements and Parent Reviews:

“I am very pleased and encouraged to learn about your innovative and exciting ideas about curricular reforms that will replace the barren and stultifying teaching-to-test emphasis of recent years with programs that will stimulate children’s natural sense of curiosity and desire to understand, and encourage their creative engagement and commitment to inquiry.” (Noam Chomsky, Professor Emeritus, Linguistics and Philosophy, MIT)

“I am thrilled to learn about your efforts to make education for children free of discipline boundaries, humanities-friendly, more creative, and encourage critical thinking.” (Yash Pal, Professor and Scientist, former Chairman of University Grants Commission, Padma Bhushan Awardee (Govt. of India))

“My son has returned happy, bubbling with information and challenged, after every day of his class, and ever eager to go to it the next day. I haven’t seen him so unequivocally positive about any of his classes… I often wished that I had had the opportunity to learn mathematics in this manner!” (Parent of a student from our summer class in 2014)

“I would rate The Young Socratics very highly, and would strongly recommend these classes to every student. Mathematics is a beautiful subject, and these classes help showcase the true beauty of Mathematics to the students. And this should help to remove any fear or dislike for Mathematics, and replace it with a deep appreciation of the subject. This learning should help the students throughout their studies both in school and college.” (Parent of a student from our summer class in 2014)

“One of the most important thing about this camp was content provided by Omkar and his team. It is truly exceptional and I have never seen such a high quality content anywhere in my life. I wish, I was taught like this during my childhood days. “ (Parent of a student from our summer class in 2014)

Timed Tests and Math Anxiety

Midway through our summer class in Cupertino, when we asked our students whether they wanted to be tested through a weekly contest (like the numerous contest-focused math programs in the area), everyone resoundingly voted “No!”. When asked why, the main reason they offered was that they wanted the class to continue to be “fun” and not be “spoiled”. In an article published earlier this year, Jo Boaler, professor of Mathematics Education at Stanford University, points to the negative impact of administering timed tests to children to assess their mathematics fluency. A summary of the article –

1. Timed tests, used for assessing math fluency, cause math anxiety in many.

2. They produce the impression that math is all about good performance (equated with fast performance) in tests, and not about learning and enjoyment.

3. Many slow but deep thinkers turn away from math, discouraged, even though deep thinking is important in the discipline of mathematics, while speed is irrelevant.

4. Math anxiety, being a form of stress, blocks working memory, which hinders the recall of important facts in timed tests, leading to underachievement, and possibly more math anxiety.

5. Math anxiety affects not only low achievers, but also high achievers.

6. “Number talks” (an example of which is given in the article) are a good alternative to timed tests, helping students develop math fluency without the negative pressure of speed, and helping them develop “number sense”.

Read the full article at

Live online classes begin at Purnapramati, Bangalore

This week, we started teaching online classes (as volunteers) at a school in Bangalore called Purnapramati, which aims to provide a holistic education to its children, that is rooted in Indian culture. They were very eager to have us teach their kids, given the different way in which we are approaching mathematics and science education. Here are a couple of videos from the first session. For the actual content on Cryptarithms, check out our online course on Cryptarithms!

History of Science – What and Why?

One of our goals at The Young Socratics is to integrate the teaching of science with its history. When I mentioned this to a 5th grader, he said he was indeed quite interested to know the names of the people who made different discoveries. That was his conception of what the history of science would teach him. While knowing names (and dates) might be a part of history, there is a lot more to the history of science than the memorization of names and dates.

What then is the history of science, and why should one bother about it? Watch the following videos to learn more!

In the first video, I explain what the history of science is:

In the next three videos, I discuss some reasons why learning the history of science is important:

Summer camp — Adventures in Mathematical Problem-Solving

When given a question to answer, many students think only for a few seconds to figure whether they can see a method to answer the question, and give up otherwise. They are habituated to being given “exercises”, questions that test whether you can apply a known method for calculating the answer. But what is one to do when it’s not at all clear what method to use? A “problem” is a question that one does not know (at the outset) how to solve, and which hence appears to be difficult. In contrast to exercises, solving problems requires a very different mindset. You need to take time to patiently explore an unknown terrain, get your hands dirty, investigate what happens if you turn left or turn right, come up with strategies to get to the desired ‘destination’ (the solution), and see where they lead you. You have to learn to cope with failure, to encounter dead ends, to get lost, and keep exploring. All this makes solving problems more difficult than solving exercises, but also more fun. Isn’t hiking in an unknown terrain more fun than doing repetitive exercises in a gym? You can expect surprises, thrilling moments of discovery along with frustrating moments of feeling lost and confused.

In this course aimed at middle school students, we will learn the art of solving problems in mathematics. It will not only prepare you for contests like the Math Olympiad and deepen your understanding of the school curriculum, but also provide you plenty of moments of thrill and discovery where you will learn to use effective strategies to find your own creative solutions to problems. The problems will be drawn from the history of mathematics, from games and puzzles, from math contests and from real world situations. Continue reading


1. What is “The Young Socratics”? 

The Young Socratics is an educational program in Math and Science geared towards middle and high school students, with an emphasis on problem-solving, and on understanding the relevant subjects (Math and Science) using the lens of history and philosophy.

We believe that all the different subjects (Math, Science, Social Studies, Literature, Art, etc) need to be ideally integrated together into a coherent and meaningful body of knowledge for the student, rather than being compartmentalized into different subjects with little or no connection with one another. For example, when studying about political, economic, social and religious life in ancient Mesopotamia in history classrooms, the students should also be exposed to the mathematics and astronomy of the Babylonians; or for instance, while explaining the concept of motion in a physics class,  an exposition on the motivation and history of the development of calculus should also be provided to the students. This should in fact be the primary way to introduce mathematical and scientific ideas. They should learn about the creative development of mathematical and scientific ideas in their historical context, rather than directly being told about their final forms in the present. They need to experience the intellectual journey of humans by encountering these ideas in the chronological manner in which they developed. They should experience the confusion, the frustration, the suspense, and the thrills of that human journey. This narrative (“story”) approach is bound to motivate students more, and lead to a better understanding of those ideas.  Continue reading