Mysterious Egyptian Mathematics

Feb 23, 2022 | Roslyn


A single stroke, a heel bone (upside-down smile), a coil of rope, a lotus plant, a finger, and a frog, are 6 unique symbols composed by ancient Egyptians to represent the number system. Clever Egyptians made great contributions to modern mathematics, like designing decimals, fractions, the number zero, negative numbers, and even the value of Pi. They had an understanding of solid geometry which they combined with their algebra system to construct the pyramids.

The practices of the Egyptians focused on maths usefulness as a real-world problem solving tool.


Ancient Egyptian Number System


Information on Egyptian mathematics is limited to a scarce amount of surviving sources written on papyrus. The Egyptians introduced the earliest fully-developed base 10 numeration system. They had separate symbols for one unit. A stroke was used for units, a heel-bone symbol for tens, a coiled rope for hundreds. Numbers were usually written left to right, starting with the highest denominator. For example, in the number 2525, the first number to appear on the left would be 2000, then 500, 20, and 5.



The ancient Egyptian civilization used math for measuring time, straight lines, the level of the floodings from the Nile, tax calculation, calculating areas of land, counting money, and even cooking!


The Rhind Papyrus contains other mathematical knowledge such as unit fractions, composite and prime numbers, arithmetic, geometric and harmonic means, and arithmetic and geometric series. They used these concepts in their trade, computing an assortment of land areas, calculating taxes, to compute areas of several geometric shapes and the volumes of cylinders and pyramids.


Furthermore, the ancient Egyptians were the first civilization to develop and solve quadratic equations, as revealed by the Berlin Papyrus.


It is commonly believed that historic Egyptians were the mighty builders who created the 10 base number system, a mathematical system that much of our present modern civilization is based on. This all makes sense because there is no way you can make those incredible pyramids without any proper math knowledge. After all, it is not like they could go on Google and hire an architect or a math tutor!


The ancient Egyptians would have loved the Mathnasium Method, as we both view math as a practical tool for problem solving! 


We hope you enjoyed our little history lesson.