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"Has been a lifesaver so many times!"

- Catherine Rampell, student @ University of Washington

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- Michael Majchrowicz, student @ University of Kentucky

Ancient knowledge of the sciences was often wrong and wholly

unsatisfactory by modern standards. However not all of the knowledge of the

more learned peoples of the past was false. In fact without people like Euclid

or Plato we may not have been as advanced in this age as we are. Mathematics is

an adventure in ideas. Within the history of mathematics, one finds the ideas

and lives of some of the most brilliant people in the history of mankind\'s\'

populace upon Earth.

First man created a number system of base 10. Certainly, it is not just

coincidence that man just so happens to have ten fingers or ten toes, for when

our primitive ancestors first discovered the need to count they definitely would

have used their fingers to help them along just like a child today. When

primitive man learned to count up to ten he somehow differentiated himself from

other animals. As an object of a higher thinking, man invented ten number-

sounds. The needs and possessions of primitive man were not many. When the

need to count over ten aroused, he simply combined the number-sounds related

with his fingers. So, if he wished to define one more than ten, he simply said

one-ten. Thus our word eleven is simply a modern form of the Teutonic ein-lifon.

Since those first sounds were created, man has only added five new basic

number-sounds to the ten primary ones. They are “hundred,” “thousand,” “

million,” “billion” (a thousand millions in America, a million millions in

England), “trillion” (a million millions in America, a million-million millions

in England). Because primitive man invented the same number of number-sounds as

he had fingers, our number system is a decimal one, or a scale based on ten,

consisting of limitless repetitions of the first ten number sounds.

Undoubtedly, if nature had given man thirteen fingers instead of ten,

our number system would be much changed. For instance, with a base thirteen

number system we would call fifteen, two-thirteen\'s. While some intelligent and

well-schooled scholars might argue whether or not base ten is the most adequate

number system, base ten is the irreversible favorite among all the nations.

Of course, primitive man most certainly did not realize the concept of

the number system he had just created. Man simply used the number-sounds

loosely as adjectives. So an amount of ten fish was ten fish, whereas ten is an

adjective describing the noun fish.

Soon the need to keep tally on one\'s counting raised. The simple

solution was to make a vertical mark. Thus, on many caves we see a number of

marks that the resident used to keep track of his possessions such a fish or

knives. This way of record keeping is still taught today in our schools under

the name of tally marks.

The earliest continuous record of mathematical activity is from the

second millennium BC When one of the few wonders of the world were created

mathematics was necessary. Even the earliest Egyptian pyramid proved that the

makers had a fundamental knowledge of geometry and surveying skills. The

approximate time period was 2900 BC

The first proof of mathematical activity in written form came about one

thousand years later. The best known sources of ancient Egyptian mathematics in

written format are the Rhind Papyrus and the Moscow Papyrus. The sources

provide undeniable proof that the later Egyptians had intermediate knowledge of

the following mathematical problems: applications to surveying, salary

distribution, calculation of area of simple geometric figures\' surfaces and

volumes, simple solutions for first and second degree equations.

Egyptians used a base ten number system most likely because of biologic

reasons (ten fingers as explained above). They used the Natural Numbers

(1,2,3,4,5,6, etc.) also known as the counting numbers. The word digit, which

is Latin for finger, is also another name for numbers which explains the

influence of fingers upon numbers once again.

The Egyptians produced a more complex system then the tally system for

recording amounts. Hieroglyphs stood for groups of tens, hundreds, and

thousands. The higher powers of ten made it much easier for the Egyptians to

calculate into numbers as large as one million. Our number system which is both

decimal and positional (52 is not the same value as 25) differed from the

Egyptian which was additive, but not positional.

The Egyptians also knew more of pi then its mere existence. They found

pi to equal C/D or 4(8/9)ª whereas a equals 2. The method for ancient peoples

arriving at this numerical equation was fairly easy. They simply counted how

many times a string that fit the circumference of the circle fitted