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This free course looks at Babylonian mathematics. You will learn how a series of discoveries has enabled historians to decipher stone tablets and study the various techniques the Babylonians used for problem-solving and teaching. The Babylonian problem-solving skills have been described as remarkable and scribes of the time received a training far in advance of anything available in medieval Christian Europe 3000 years later.
After studying this unit you should be able to:
- know something about cuneiform how it was used to represent numbers for mathematical problem solving and computation;
- understand the relationship between a decimal place-value system and a sexagesimal one;
- appreciate the advanced understanding of mathematics in Ancient Mesopotamia in relation to anyone in medieval Christian Europe 3000 years later.
- Current section: Introduction
- Learning outcomes
- 1 Babylonian mathematics
- 1.2 A Babylonian mathematical problem
- 1.3 The historical study of cuneiform
- 1.4 A remarkable numeration system
- 1.5 Plimpton 332
- 1.6 The social context of Babylonian mathematical activity
- 1.7 Babylonian mathematical style
- 1.8 Conclusion
- 1.9 Further reading
- Keep on learning
Study this free course
Enrol to access the full course, get recognition for the skills you learn, track your progress and on completion gain a statement of participation to demonstrate your learning to others. Make your learning visible!
This unit is from our archive and it is an adapted extract from Topics in the history of mathematics (MA290) which is no longer in presentation. If you wish to study formally at The Open University, you may wish to explore the courses we offer in this.
This unit looks at Babylonian mathematics. You will learn how a series of discoveries have enabled historians to decipher stone tablets and study the various techniques the Babylonians used for problem-solving and teaching. The Babylonian problem-solving skills have been described as remarkable and scribes of the time received a training far in advance of anything available in medieval Christian Europe 3000 years later.
This free course includes adapted extracts from an Open University course which is no longer available to new students. If you found this interesting you could explore more free Mathematics courses or view the range of currently available OU Mathematics courses.
Copyright & revisions
Originally published: Friday, 8th July 2011
Last updated on: Friday, 31st August 2012
- Creative-Commons: The Open University is proud to release this free course under a Creative Commons licence. However, any third-party materials featured within it are used with permission and are not ours to give away. These materials are not subject to the Creative Commons licence. See terms and conditions. Full details can be found in the Acknowledgements and our FAQs section.
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