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Learning Center Experience
By Peggy Hohensee, PhDDirector of Math Across the Curriculum
2005, I completed my Master of Science in Applied Mathematics. One of the courses in my degree program was
the History of Number Theory. It was a
fascinating course which thoroughly (and pleasantly) surprised me because I had
never been a huge fan of number theory, and I especially disliked history
courses. That experience taught me that
you never know when/where you will learn new and interesting things. Nearly 10 years later, I still remember snippets
of that course. Here is an example:
ancient knowledge in the field of number theory surviving today originated with
the Egyptians, Babylonians, and Chinese and India/Hindu societies. From the Egyptian culture, we have 2 Papyri
that have survived: the Rhind and the Moscow. These Papyri contained approximately 90
problems from ancient Egypt. Most of the problems were geometry, but they
did contain some arithmetic.
the Egyptians, the Babylonians used cuneiform (clay) tablets. To date many thousands of these tablets have
been unearthed, but it is speculated that many hundreds of thousands may still
lie undiscovered. Imagine the knowledge
still yet to be unearthed!
are no known surviving ancient texts from the Chinese or India/Hindu
societies. In approximately 213 BC, the
Chinese Emperor wanted to be the originator of all knowledge. As such, he had all books burned under threat
of hard labor, and he forced all scholars to give up teaching under threat of
death. Although there was no such threat
made to the India/Hindu scholars, we have no records prior to those kept by the
Persians beginning around 600 AD. Either
records weren’t made, or more likely, writings were done on paper which did not
survive over time.
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