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Egyptian mathematics

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The Egyptians are known for being ahead of their time in comparison to some civilisations that came after them. This free course, Egyptian mathematics, looks at how the Egyptians solved mathematical problems in everyday life and the technology they used. An understanding of this area has only been possible following the translation of the Rosetta Stone.

After studying this course, you should be able to:

  • demonstrate knowledge of how hieroglyphs were used to represent numbers and the nature of the problems that have survived
  • understand that Egyptian calculation was fundamentally additive. Operations such as doubling and halving being used for multiplication and division
  • appreciate the advanced understanding of mathematics in Ancient Egypt in relation to the manipulation of fractions
  • consider some views of the mathematics of Ancient Egypt in relation to that of the Babylonians.

By: The Open University

  • Duration 9 hours
  • Updated Tuesday 15th March 2016
  • Intermediate level
  • Posted under Mathematics
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Egyptian mathematics


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For many centuries, ancient Egypt was seen as the source of wisdom and knowledge, about mathematics as well as other things. There was a long classical Greek tradition to this effect, and in later centuries the indecipherability of the hieroglyphs did nothing to dispel this belief. But since the early nineteenth century, when the deciphering of the Rosetta Stone by Young and Champollion enabled rapid progress to be made in translating extant Egyptian texts, the picture has changed to reveal a civilisation more pragmatic and down-to-earth. In this course, we shall investigate what we now know of Egyptian mathematics, and how we know it.

This OpenLearn course provides a sample of Level 2 study in Mathematics [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]

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