Wednesday, January 5, 2011

History of Mathematics--Egyptians

I was recently reminded of my History of Mathematics class and dug out my textbook.

One of my favorite parts of this class was seeing how early civilizations counted and recorded numbers. For example, the Egyptians.

Our number system is based on 10 symbols--0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9--that have different values based on how they're written. Theirs was based on symbols that represented a given quantity.

To show multiples of that quantity, write multiple symbols. 

(And now there will be a scanned-in document because I can't figure out how to do hieroglyphics on my computer. And you will see my mad art skills. And poor handwriting.)

Unlike our number system, in which 14 and 41 are very different, it doesn't matter what order you write their numbers in. A lotus flower and a tadpole will always equals 101,000--no matter what order you write them in.

Notice there's no symbol for zero. Our zero is a placeholder but with each of their symbols representing a set quantity, there's no need for a placeholder.

I could sit and re-write numbers in hieroglyphics all afternoon....oh wait, I did. And yes, there will be more posts like this as I work my way back through the textbook.

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