Babylonian math problem – West Asian science

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A real Babylonian math problem on a clay tablet

A real Babylonian math problem on a clay tablet

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? Here’s a hint: see how you can divide the area into three trapezoids?

You’ll need to know how to find the area of a trapezoid.

A better drawing of the math problem

A better drawing of the math problem

 

 

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
Quatr.us home

By |2018-04-15T00:37:52+00:00September 16th, 2017|Science, West Asia|2 Comments
Cite this page: Carr, K.E. Babylonian math problem – West Asian science. Quatr.us Study Guides, September 16, 2017. Web. November 19, 2018.

About the Author:

Dr. Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.

2 Comments

  1. situs judi bandarq May 31, 2018 at 1:29 pm - Reply

    Can you tell us more about this? I’d love to find out some additional information.

    • Karen Carr May 31, 2018 at 4:07 pm

      Well, I’ve been looking into it, but I think the truth is it’s more complicated than I made it sound. There’s no simple answer to this math problem. Most likely, the Babylonian answer relied on memorizing tables, like multiplication tables. I’m realizing I need to rewrite the article and admit that even so long ago, students did math problems that were pretty hard!

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