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 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. Study Guides, September 16, 2017. Web. January 23, 2019.

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.


  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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