# Ancient Egyptian Mathematics Essay Research Paper The

Ancient Egyptian Mathematics Essay, Research Paper The use of organized mathematics in Egypt has been dated back to the third millennium BC. Egyptian mathematics was dominated by arithmetic, with an emphasis on measurement and calculation in geometry. With their vast knowledge of geometry, they were able to correctly calculate the areas of triangles, rectangles, and trapezoids and the volumes of figures such as bricks, cylinders, and pyramids. They were also able to build the Great Pyramid with extreme accuracy. Early surveyors found that the maximum error in fixing the length of the sides was only 0.63 of an inch, or less than 1/14000 of the total length. They also found that the error of the angles at the corners to be only 12″, or about 1/27000 of a right angle (Smith 43). Three theories from mathematics were found to have been used in building the Great Pyramid. The first theory states that four equilateral triangles were placed together to build the pyramidal surface. The second theory states that the ratio of one of the sides to half of the height is the approximate value of P, or that the ratio of the perimeter to the height is 2P. It has been discovered that early pyramid builders may have conceived the idea that P equaled about 3.14. The third theory states that the angle of elevation of the passage leading to the principal chamber determines the latitude of the pyramid, about 30o N, or that the passage itself points to what was then known as the pole star (Smith 44). Ancient Egyptian mathematics was based on two very elementary concepts. The first concept was that the Egyptians had a thorough knowledge of the twice-times table. The second concept was that they had the ability to find two-thirds of any number (Gillings 3). This number could be either integral or fractional. The Egyptians used the fraction 2/3 used with sums of unit fractions (1/n) to express all other fractions. Using this system, they were able to solve all problems of arithmetic that involved fractions, as well as some elementary problems in algebra (Berggren). The science of mathematics was further advanced in Egypt in the fourth millennium BC than it was anywhere else in the world at this time. The Egyptian calendar was introduced about 4241 BC. Their year consisted of 12 months of 30 days each with 5 festival days at the end of the year. These festival days were dedicated to the gods Osiris, Horus, Seth, Isis, and Nephthys (Gillings 235). Osiris was the god of nature and vegetation and was instrumental in civilizing the world. Isis was Osiris’s wife and their son was Horus. Seth was Osiris’s evil brother and Nephthys was Seth’s sister (Weigel 19). The Egyptians divided their year into 3 seasons that were 4 months each. These seasons included inundation, coming-forth, and summer. Inundation was the sowing period, coming-forth was the growing period, and summer was the harvest period. They also determined a year to be 365 days so they were very close to the actual year of 365 ¼ days (Gillings 235). When studying the history of algebra, you find that it started back in Egypt and Babylon. The Egyptians knew how to solve linear (ax=b) and quadratic (ax2+bx=c) equations, as well as indeterminate equations such as x2+y2=z2 where several unknowns are involved (Dauben). The earliest Egyptian texts were written around 1800 BC. They consisted of a decimal numeration system with separate symbols for the successive powers of 10 (1, 10, 100, and so forth), just like the Romans (Berggren). These symbols were known as hieroglyphics. Numbers were represented by writing down the symbol for 1, 10, 100, and so on as many times as the unit was in the given number. For example, the number 365 would be represented by the symbol for 1 written five times, the symbol for 10 written six times, and the symbol for 100 written three times. Addition was done by totaling separately the units-1s, 10s,

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