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History of Mathematics

Image of the Plimpton 322 Babylonian Clay Tablet that contains lists of Pythagorean Triples (or Triads)Believe it, or not, the term mathematics has nothing to do with numbers, algebra, geometry, or anything like that!  It was a term that was first coined a little before 500 BC by the community that studied and lived with Pythagoras in their community at Croton in southern Italy.  They developed the term from the Greek word μάθημα (mathema) which meant subject of instruction.

The term mathematics, therefore, meant subjects of instruction … particularly those subjects dealing with patterns and nature.  Consequently, by the 16th Century, a scholar studying mathematics at university could expect to study music, astronomy, arithmetic, ballistics, fireworks, chemistry, geometry, the new cossick art (algebra), etc., all under the ‘umbrella’ of mathematics.  I am sure students in schools today would enjoy broadening their studies in this way!

Of course, the development of mathematics dates from much earlier.  From the time we assessed how much food we had, or whether someone had more than someone else, or whether we had sufficient to last for a period of time, we were using mathematical skills.  This page will be steadily populated with anecdotes/stories from the history of mathematics, accounts of some of the amazing people who contributed to our understanding of this art, introductions to some of the famous theorems/concepts upon which our understanding is based, and even some explanation of where our symbols came from!

Anecdotes

Biographies

Famous Theorems

Mathematical Symbols

We were all deeply impressed with Graeme from the very beginning. [Lucas’] confidence radically changed within only 3 weeks of Graeme’s instruction and assistance. I am sure this was largely attributed to Graeme’s infectious passion and love for his subject, and his high personal level of skill, teaching experience and understanding of mathematics. Lucas always found Graeme could explain concepts so knowledgeably and easily, which really did transform Lucas’ appreciation and enjoyment of the subject. Graeme always gave Lucas assistance and time over and above his hour’s tutoring session. Graeme has developed a wonderful relationship and more of a mentoring role which has been of great assistance and value to Lucas as he faces the pressures of his final year of school.  I have no hesitation in recommending Graeme as an outstanding tutor and friend, and a very wise, knowledgeable and capable teacher of the highest calibre.
Sally T (parent, 2005)

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