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How to Add and Subtract Like an Egyptian

The Math Dude: Quick & Dirty Tips to Make Math Simpler
Math Dude



Quick & Dirty Tips

Scientific American presents Math Dude by Quick & Dirty Tips. Scientific American and Quick & Dirty Tips are both Macmillan companies.

Now that we’ve successfully completed our journey through the wonderful world of working with mixed fractions, it’s time to spend a few weeks stretching out our brains in an entirely different direction. Which is why we’re about to embark on a trip back through time to the birth of numbers. Long time math fans may remember our first foray into this history way back when the podcast was just getting started. But we only covered the tip of the iceberg then, so let’s once again jump into our time machine and head back to begin our journey through a brief history of numbers. How far back? Way, way back…

The Birth of Arithmetic
Nobody knows precisely when our story begins, but we know that for some reason around 30,000 years ago people started making tiny notches in bones. Researchers who found these bones have speculated that the marks carved in them were probably used to keep track of things like the number of sheep in a field or the number of days since the last harvest. In other words, these so called “tally-bones” represent the origin of counting.


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