African Mathematics History - from tally sticks to algebraic induction

African Mathematics

Ishango tally stick
Ishango Tally Stick

African people were the first people anywhere in the world to use counting to keep track of their things, or maybe to keep track of time. They made tally sticks back when people were still just cavemen, tens of thousands of years ago.

Gradually African people figured out more math. By 3000 BC, people in Egypt were using hieroglyphs to write down very large numbers. Soon afterwards, they were also using geometry to figure out how to build the Pyramids.

In the 300s and 200s BC, the world's greatest mathematicians - Euclid and Archimedes and others - were all working in Africa, at the University in Alexandria. The University stayed open, and mathematicians kept working at it, until the fall of Rome hundreds of years later.

But that was not the end of math in Africa. In the 700s AD, African mathematicians were inspired by the Indian invention of new ways of writing numbers, including the idea of zero. Lots more African mathematicians used the new numbers to figure out how to write fractions (with one number on top of the other) and algebraic equations.

In West Africa, where mathematicians hadn't heard so much about the Indian numbers, they worked instead on their own ideas. Around 1000 AD, people in West Africa were using a number system which was partly in base ten and partly in base twenty, and which used subtraction as well as addition to name numbers. By the 1200s, some North African mathematicians (in what is now Morocco) were working on ways of bringing these two systems of mathematics together.

Learn by doing: solve some algebraic equations
Need more? Lots more about African mathematics at Quatr.us
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