# When did africans start using numbers & algebra?

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The use of numbers in Africa dates back to ancient times, with the earliest known evidence of their use being found in the Ishango Bone, which is estimated to be from around 18,000 BC. Algebraic concepts were also used by African civilizations such as the Egyptians, who developed advanced mathematical techniques for building the pyramids.

## For those who require additional information

Africans have been using numbers and algebra for centuries, with evidence dating back as far as 18,000 BC. The Ishango Bone, discovered in what is now Sudan, is one of the earliest examples of the use of numbers in Africa. The bone, which is believed to be from around 18,000 BC, is covered in notches which some scholars believe represent an early form of counting or even a calendar. Algebraic concepts were also used by the ancient Egyptians, who developed sophisticated mathematical techniques for building pyramids.

Noted mathematician Ron Eglash has noted that “analyzing African geometric designs can help us understand how mathematics is embedded in culture” (source: TED Talk, “African Fractals”).

There are a number of interesting facts about the use of numbers and algebra in Africa:

• The African continent has a rich history of mathematical innovation. Many ancient civilizations, including the Egyptians, Nubians, and Berbers, made significant contributions to the development of mathematics.
• The word “algebra” comes from the Arabic word “al-jabr,” which means “reunion of broken parts.” This term was coined by the Persian mathematician Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi, who is widely regarded as the father of algebra.
• The ancient Egyptians developed a sophisticated system of mathematics that included both arithmetic and geometry. They used this knowledge to build some of the most impressive monuments of the ancient world, including the pyramids.
• The earliest known written numerals in Africa come from the ancient Egyptians, who used a hieroglyphic system to represent numbers.
• The Yoruba people of West Africa have their own unique system of arithmetic, which is based on the numbers 4 and 8. This system is still used today in some traditional African markets.
• Many traditional African societies have their own unique ways of expressing numbers and performing calculations. For example, some societies use objects like sticks or stones to represent numbers, while others use patterns of dots.
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A table of ancient African civilizations and their contributions to mathematics:

Civilization Contribution
Egypt Advanced techniques for building monuments using geometry and arithmetic
Nubia Developed their own system of numerals, which included a unique symbol for zero
Berbers Made significant contributions to algebra and geometry
Yoruba Developed their own unique system of arithmetic based on the numbers 4 and 8

## Video response

The video explores the various number systems used by African societies before colonization, including basic words to complex systems that could count up to millions, hand gestures, counting based on five or twenty, and special counting methods by some African cultures. Numbers played a crucial role in daily life, from timekeeping to managing money and transactions. African societies had unique ways of keeping track of time, regulating commerce, and collecting taxes, such as the Buganda Kingdom’s organized tax system and the Asante’s use of brass weights to evaluate gold dust. There is still much more to learn about how Africans counted and did math in early times.

Thousands of years ago, Africans were using numerals, algebra and geometry in daily life. This knowledge spread throughout the entire world after a series of migrations out of Africa, beginning around 30,000 BC, and later following a series of invasions of Africa by Europeans and Asians (1900 BC-present).

30,000 BC

Thousands of years ago, Africans were using numerals, algebra and geometry in daily life. This knowledge spread throughout the entire world after a series of migrations out of Africa, beginning around 30,000 BC, and later following a series of invasions of Africa by Europeans and Asians (1900 BC-present).

## More intriguing questions on the topic

When was math invented in Africa?
The answer is: The oldest mathematical artifact, the Lebombo bone, dates back to more than 35,000 years ago. It was found in the Lebombo Mountains near Swaziland. 3. Digital computer systems originated from ancient African cultural practices.
Did algebra start in Africa?
Africa is home to the world’s earliest known use of measuring and calculation, confirming the continent as the birthplace of both basic and advanced mathematics. Thousands of years ago, Africans were using numerals, algebra, and geometry in daily life.
What is the earliest evidence of the use of numbers in Africa?
Response will be: It is the so called Lemombo bone discovered in the 1970s in the Lemombo Mountains between the South Africa and Swaziland and dated to approximately 35,000 BC.
Where did math come from in Africa?
Answer: Well known as early evidence for mathematical activity in Africa is a bone now dated from about 8000 BCE to 20,000 BCE, dug up at Ishango (Zaire). The bone has what appear to be tallying marks on it, notches carved in groups that have been explained as early lunar phase count or as an arithmetical game of some sort.
What did Africans know about mathematics?
Answer will be: Thousands of years ago Africans were using Geometry, Algebra and numerals in their daily life but of course with the European and Asian invaders in Africa, they took what Africans already knew and began to piggy back off the Mathematics already existed.
What is the history of Africa?
Response: The history of Africa begins with the emergence of hominids, archaic humans and — around 300,000–250,000 years ago — anatomically modern humans ( Homo sapiens ), in East Africa, and continues unbroken into the present as a patchwork of diverse and politically developing nation states.
Where did numbers come from?
The earliest known unambiguous notations for numbers emerged in Mesopotamia about 5000 or 6000 years ago. Counting initially involves the fingers, given that digit-tallying is common in number systems that are emerging today, as is the use of the hands to express the numbers five and ten.
When did number systems start?
As a response to this: Number systems have progressed from the use of fingers and tally marks, perhaps more than 40,000 years ago, to the use of sets of glyphs able to represent any conceivable number efficiently. The earliest known unambiguous notations for numbers emerged in Mesopotamia about 5000 or 6000 years ago.
What did you learn from African numeration systems?
The response is: I learned so many fascinating things. African numeration systems are quinary (5 is the primary base). The Yoruba have been counting to 1 million and beyond for much longer than the West. The Kikuya in Kenya developed mathematical perfect suspension bridges long before the West in the 20th cent – you can’t do that without math.
How did numbers take on gender in Africa?
Answer to this: Yet, Zaslavsky helps us break this down. For example, numbers often took on gender in Africa. The Pythagorean school of Ancient Greece also associated even numbers with gender – even with female and odd with male. African counting is connected to the body with numbers being communicated with hand gestures and measurements associated with body part.
When did numbers and counting start?
Indeed numbers and counting weren’t really needed until then. Numbers, and counting, began about 4,000 BC in Sumeria, one of the earliest civilizations. With so many people, livestock, crops and artisan goods located in the same place, cities needed a way to organize and keep track of it all, as it was used up, added to or traded.
How many babies are born in Africa?
The number of babies born in Africa compared to the rest of the world is expected to reach approximately 37% in the year 2050. The population of Africa first surpassed one billion in 2009, with a doubling time of 27 years (growth rate 2.6% p.a.).

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