Mathematics, a Concept as Old as Time

Nov 6, 2020 | Stone Oak

Mathematics did not drop from the sky. We know that, of course, but do our students? How much richer an appreciation might our students have for math if we shared with them the history behind it. 

 

We here at Mathnasium, believe that there are many excellent reasons for students to understand the history of mathematics. It can help them to develop a deeper comprehension of the mathematics they have already studied by seeing how it was developed over time and in various places. 

 

Human beings from our earliest beginnings have searched for solutions to basic problems such as building homes, measuring space, keeping track of seasons, and counting objects. Over 30,000 years ago early Paleolithic people carved tally marks on cave walls to represent the passing of time, each tally stood for one, but the system was awkward when it came to large amounts, so eventually symbols that stood for groups of objects were created.

 

At a later time, the early Romans developed their own number system, which we still see today. All these creative number systems show groups of objects as well as individual objects. In fact, some of the oldest human counting systems relied on fingers and toes, which is why many numerical systems are based on 1’s, 5’s, 10’s, and 20’s. 

 

In today’s world, almost every industrial culture uses the numeral zero through nine but these symbols weren’t invented until the third century BC in India and it took another eight hundred years for the idea of zero with place value. 

 

People have used mathematics since ancient times, making math as important as language. People even sometimes describe math as a kind of language. Everyone uses math everyday - to tell time, to play games, to cook, to build things, and to do almost any kind of work, so it is important to understand its origin. 

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