Count like an Egyptian

Count like an Egyptian is a very good introduction to the Egyptian mathematics, with some incursions in the mathematics of other ancient cultures.

The book contains eight chapters.

The first one deals with how numbers are represented in both hieroglyphic and hieratic writing, as well as the elementary arithmetic operations. The second one treats the topic of the representation of fractions and some of the most basic computations in which they are involved. The third one continues with fractions; specifically it treats the ratio of the circumference to its diameter, and the decomposition of fractions as sum of two unit fractions, as shown in the Rhind Mathematical Papyrus. Curiously, it does not mention the reflections on the topic made the historian Richard J. Gillings in his already classic book "Mathematics in the time of the pharaohs". It is also discussed in this chapter the computation of the slope of a pyramid and the "seked", remote ancestor of our cotangent.

The forth chapter treats very thoroughly operations with fractions. The fifth chapter, significantly entitled "Techniques and strategies", deals with the applications of the methods discussed in the previous chapters to various practical problems and measurement units. It explains the controversy generated by the tenth problem in the Moscow papyrus, in which evidences are given that the Egyptians might know the surface of the sphere.

The sixth chapter follows the previous line, and enters the topic of the volumes of truncated pyramids.
The seventh chapter speaks about the bases and numbering systems of different civilizations: Sumerian, Mayan and Roman.

The eighth chapter keeps dealing with the mathematics and astronomical systems of different villages. These last two chapters allow, by comparison, to give a more balanced view of the quality of Egyptian mathematics and also to understand how the Greek and Babylonian cultures are indebted to her.

Overall, this is a didactic and well written book, with many important illustrations, which can be understood without further knowledge than that of elementary mathematics.

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Book details

Count like an Egyptian is a very good introduction to the Egyptian mathematics, with some incursions in the mathematics of other ancient cultures.

Author:  Publisher: 
Published: 
2014
ISBN: 
9780691160122