A Glimpse of Mathematics History
RODERICK R. MENDIOLA, School Principal III – Bonifacio Javier National High School
ACCORDING to an article published in Issues in the Undergraduate Mathematics Preparation of School Teachers: The Journal, the history of mathematics is an important component in the learning of mathematics. And I couldn’t agree more, considering that my foray into early mathematics history has amplified my love of and appreciation for the discipline itself. The massive utility of numbers is inevitable, and we see throughout human history the crucial role that mathematics has played in shaping our lives and the world we are living in today – virtual or otherwise.
The development of mathematics in early civilizations had consequences that radically impacted among many others the social, cultural, economic, and political structures of ancient societies. These civilizations had flourished (and some may have survived up to the present times if not torn by wars, invasions or decimating-scale natural calamities) by successfully integrating mathematics into their daily lives – the same practical idea being adopted by modern societies in order to survive through the ages while living in harmony with each other as a take-away from lessons of the past and not perish from the face of the earth.
The social and economic growth of ancient India particularly the Harappan society was attributed in part to the proliferation of mathematics during those eras. The notably accurate weights and measures being used by early Indians may have paved the way for the adoption of guidelines on the construction of their homes, roads, drainage systems and other physical structures in the interest of building a magnificent city grounded on mathematically rich architectural designs. These remarkable precisions also helped speed up the development of its trade and commerce.
Indian belief in their gods and goddesses also made mathematics a staple in their ritual activities as reflected in Vedic texts on religion. Right worship must be observed to continually gain favor from their deities, and this necessitated the “proper” construction of altars – the exact shapes and sizes – in their conduct of rituals. Indeed, accuracy characterizes early Indian mathematics. The conversion of one geometric shape to another of the same area is just one of the many achievements in ancient India reflecting their mathematical ingenuity.
The early Chinese civilization may have lacked a formal notational system that had the elegance of that of Indian’s, but it was the first society to establish some of the fundamental concepts that are still relevant in the present times such as working with fractions using common denominator and proofs of some geometrical theories including what is known today as the Pythagorean theorem. Surviving texts from the 3rd century BCE revealed engineering mathematics being the characterization of the early Chinese civilization and I think its present society still bears the mark of this outstanding accomplishment as mirrored in the grandeur of its engineering works dotting the city landscapes nowadays.
Greece is not only famous for its ancient history but also for its great mathematicians and philosophers who helped inspire modern thought. Archimedes, for example, pioneered the concept of buoyancy and Euclid cemented the notion of proofs as important in proving mathematical statements. The surge of cultural and economic development in the Iron Age may be closely linked to the thinkers whose ideas spread across the globe and spawned innovations unprecedented in those times. Thanks to our mathematicians without whom we may not have the present world as we know it.
Happy Mathematics Month!