Many students have a complicated relationship with mathematics. Some enjoy solving complex problems, while others struggle with its concepts and applications. However, for the majority, it can be intimidating and challenging.
Getting good grades in mathematics feels like climbing the steepest mountain without safety gear. One wrong turn and you’d never reach the destination. With so many complexities involved, it’s only fair to wish that someone hadn’t invented mathematics in the first place, right?
But was it invented by one person?
Contrary to popular belief, math was discovered and not invented. It has been around since the dawn of civilization when people used tally marks to keep track of numbers. Today, It has become an integral part of our everyday lives, helping us to calculate, think critically, and solve problems.
So where did it all begin? What have been the contributions so far?
Let’s break down the discovery of mathematical inventions in simple steps that you can easily learn, absorb, and flaunt.
Breakdown of the history of mathematical inventions:
1. Ancient Mathematical Systems
Ancient mathematics was used to solve various problems before the advent of modern mathematics. Ancient mathematicians developed several systems to make calculations easier. Here is a glimpse of famous discoveries:
- The Egyptian Mathematics: Egyptian mathematic hieratic system was used to simplify calculations by using symbols to represent numbers and to measure and calculate land, taxes, and other goods.
- Babylonian Mathematics: Babylonian mathematics was based on the sexagesimal system i.e. they used the number 60 to count and measure time, computational mathematics, and astronomy. The system also allows Babylonians to perform complex calculations, including multiplication, division, and square roots.
- Chinese Mathematics: The Chinese decimal system was developed around the same time as the Egyptian System, but their system was much more advanced. They made significant contributions to algebra, trigonometry, and geometry. They also developed the concept of negative numbers.
- Mayan Mathematics: Mayans were skilled in arithmetic, geometry, and astronomy. They developed a base-20 system but are widely known for their calendar system based on mathematical calculations. The calendar system made predictions about the movement of celestial bodies.
Though in a modified form, these ancient systems are still in use today.
2. Greek Mathematics
Greek mathematics can be traced back to the 6th century BC and has had an immense influence on the development of mathematics as a whole. The Greeks developed a sophisticated mathematical system that included geometry, arithmetic, and algebra. They also developed the concept of irrational numbers.
Thales of Miletus, Pythagoras, and Euclid are among the most well-known ancient Greek mathematicians, each making major contributions to the field. Thales of Miletus is credited with introducing the concept of mathematical proof and is remembered for discovering the famous Thales theorem.
Pythagoras developed the Pythagorean theorem, a cornerstone of geometry, and Euclid is credited with writing the famed Elements, which served as the basis of geometry for centuries.
3. Indian Mathematics
Some of the earliest recorded mathematical ideas can be traced back to the Indus Valley Civilization, which flourished in the northwestern region of the Indian subcontinent around 2500 BCE.
One of the most important developments in Indian mathematics was the invention of the decimal system and the concept of zero, which allowed for more advanced mathematical calculations. This system, now used worldwide, was first developed by Aryabhatta in 500 CE. He is also credited with developing the concept of place value.
Other notable mathematicians from India include:
- Brahmagupta developed the formula for the area of a cyclic quadrilateral and introduced the concept of negative numbers;
- Vedic Mathematics is the name given to a supposedly ancient system of calculation that was “rediscovered” from the Vedas between 1911 and 1918 by Sri Bharati Krishna Tirthaji Maharaj (1884-1960).
- Bhaskara II made important contributions to the study of algebra and calculus; and
- Ramanujan made groundbreaking contributions to number theory and infinite series.
4. Middle Eastern Mathematics
One of the most famous mathematical works to come out of the Middle East is “Algebra” by the Persian mathematician Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi, who lived in the 9th century. Al-khwarizmi’s book laid the foundation for modern algebra and introduced the concept of the algorithm, which is a step-by-step procedure for solving a problem.
Another important figure in Middle Eastern mathematics is Omar Khayyam, a Persian mathematician, poet, and philosopher who lived in the 11th and 12th centuries. Khayyam is best known for his study of cubic equations.
Islamic mathematics also contributed greatly to the development of trigonometry, which was used extensively in astronomy and navigation. The Persian astronomer Al-Biruni, for example, wrote extensively on the subject of trigonometry, including the first known table of sines.
5. Discoveries in the Modern Mathematics
Modern mathematics is a vast and rapidly evolving field, so here are some highlights of recent discoveries and advancements:
The Poincaré Conjecture: In 2002, Grigori Perelman proved the Poincaré Conjecture, one of the most famous unsolved problems in topology. The conjecture states that any closed, simply connected three-dimensional manifold is topologically equivalent to a three-dimensional sphere.
The Langlands Program: This is a set of conjectures that relate number theory and representation theory. It was first proposed by Robert Langlands in the 1960s, and since then, mathematicians have made significant progress in understanding the connections between the two fields. One of the most exciting recent developments was the proof of the Sato-Tate Conjecture, a special case of the Langlands Program.
The ABC Conjecture: This is a major unsolved problem in number theory that has been the subject of intense research for several decades. The conjecture relates the prime factors of three integers a, b, and c, and it has important implications for other areas of mathematics. In 2019, Shinichi Mochizuki released a series of papers claiming proof of the ABC Conjecture, but the proof is still under review and has not been widely accepted.
Machine Learning and Deep Learning: While not strictly a branch of mathematics, machine learning, and deep learning have revolutionized many fields, including mathematics. These techniques allow mathematicians to analyze vast amounts of data and discover patterns that would be difficult or impossible to detect otherwise. They have been used in areas such as graph theory, algebraic geometry, and number theory, among others.
This article is just a small glimpse of the vast and varied contributions to mathematics over the centuries. From the earliest counting systems to the equations that underpin modern computing, mathematics has shaped the world we live in today.
Recommended Reading: How To Select the Right Math Classes for Kids
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In what month and day was exactly math created