Humans invented mathematics through a long process of trial and error and observation of patterns in the natural world, eventually developing systems of symbols and rules to describe and manipulate those patterns.
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The development of mathematics by humans has been a gradual process that began thousands of years ago. At its root, mathematics can be traced back to counting and measuring. Ancient civilizations such as the Babylonians, Egyptians, and Greeks made significant contributions to the development of mathematical concepts that are still in use today.
One of the earliest recorded numerical systems was developed by the Sumerians around 4000 BCE. They used a base 60 system to count and keep track of goods and livestock. The Ancient Egyptians developed a base 10 system using hieroglyphs, which they used for counting and basic arithmetic operations. The Greeks made significant contributions to the development of geometry.
Over time, humans found that mathematics could be used to solve complex problems and explain patterns in the natural world. Mathematician Marcus du Sautoy describes this process as “learning the language” of the universe. By understanding mathematical concepts, humans have been able to develop technologies such as bridges, computers, and space travel.
Albert Einstein once said, “Pure mathematics is, in its way, the poetry of logical ideas.” Mathematics is not only a practical tool but also an art form that involves creativity and imagination.
Here are some interesting facts about the development of mathematics by humans:
- The concept of zero was developed in Ancient India around 500 CE.
- The first recorded use of algebraic equations was in Ancient Babylon around 1800 BCE.
- The Greeks were the first to develop a formal system of mathematical proof.
- The Fibonacci sequence, which is named after Italian mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci, can be found in nature in the spirals of shells and the branching of trees.
|Sumerian Civilization (4000 BCE)||Base 60 numerical system|
|Ancient Egyptian Civilization||Development of a base 10 system using hieroglyphs|
|Ancient Greeks||Significant contributions to the development of geometry and the formal system of mathematical proof|
|Ancient Babylon (1800 BCE)||First recorded use of algebraic equations|
Overall, the invention of mathematics by humans was a long and complex process that involved observation, trial and error, and creativity. It has allowed us to explain patterns in the natural world and solve complex problems, making it an essential tool for human progress and innovation.
See a video about the subject.
This video discusses the debate between those who believe that mathematics is discovered, and those who believe that it is invented. The video provides examples of how mathematics has been used to solve problems in the real world.
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A pattern emerges: humans invent mathematical concepts by way of abstracting elements from the world around them–shapes, lines, sets, groups, and so forth–either for some specific purpose or simply for fun. They then go on to discover the connections among those concepts.
I am far from an expert on this subject, but it might be illuminating to consider what happens when a dog catches a ball. Neglecting air resistance and other secondary effects, the ball follows a predictable trajectory that is shaped by gravity, and math allows us to predict where it will land. Astonishingly, a dog can _also_ predict where the ball will land almost immediately after the throw, and some dogs can even run and leap to catch the ball before it touches the ground. When you consider that the dog has far less visual acuity than we do and that it is estimating the three-dimensional geometry of the world and position of the ball in real time from imperfect two-dimensional signals bouncing on its retinas as it runs, you might be tempted to award the dog a degree in Applied Mathematics!
So does the dog that successfully locks the ball in its jaws in mid-air invent math, discover it, or neither?
One perspective would be that the dog discovers math: through life experience, it ob…
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Maths is a product of the conscious mind: both a tool and a language used to make sense of the designs and functions of our universe – quenching humans’ instinctual thirst for rationalisation.