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A real Babylonian math problem on a clay tablet

A real Babylonian math problem on a clay tablet

What math problems did Babylonian kids do?

This is a real math problem assigned to Babylonian kids in Iraq about 1900 BC. See if you can do it.

Here’s the problem:

Suppose you have two equilateral triangles, one inside the other. Can you figure out the area of the space between the two triangles?

More about equilateral triangles
More about area

Probably the teacher wanted you to find the area of both equilateral triangles (you need square roots!) and then subtract the smaller one from the bigger one. Probably to get the square roots without a calculator, the students looked at a table of square roots, like a multiplication table.

Learn by doing: an abacus
More about Babylonian math

Bibliography and further reading about West Asian science:

Science in Ancient Mesopotamia, by Carol Moss (1999). Easy reading. On the short side.

West Asian Mathematics
West Asian Numbers
More West Asian Scienceage
Ancient West Asia home