Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Dayana from Chicago , IL. Dayana Wonders, “Who invented math” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Dayana !
We're sure that more than one student has wished that he could travel back in time and prevent someone from inventing math. Of course, that same wish probably has been made with regard to all subjects that result in homework and difficult tests from time to time.
But would that really be possible…even if time travel existed? Probably not! Why? Unlike a light bulb or a computer, mathematics isn't really an invention. It's really more of a discovery.
Mathematics encompasses many different types of studies, so its discovery can't even be attributed to one person. Instead, mathematics developed slowly over thousands of years with the help of thousands of people!
How did it get started? No one can know for sure, but we can use our imaginations to think about how mathematics might have gotten its start. For example, if we go all the way back to prehistoric humans gathering berries to eat, we can imagine how this basic task probably gave rise for a need for math. If you and your prehistoric buddy gathered a basket full of berries, you'd probably agree to split them evenly. First, you'd need to know how many berries you gathered. That means you'd need to count them. You might first need to come up with names for the basic units of measurement. Is this how counting and the first numbers came about? No one knows, but you can see how this might be how it happened.
Similarly, division might have been born from the need to split that pile of berries evenly. How advanced did prehistoric humans get with mathematics? Probably not far at all, but a need for certain mathematic principles likely arose from daily life and, as such, were discovered or created out of need rather than invented. Early learning eventually led to more advanced fields of mathematics, such as algebra, geometry, calculus, and trigonometry!
Because many mathematical discoveries were made as a result of necessity, it comes as no surprise that scientists believe that many basic mathematical functions, such as addition, multiplication, and the like, appeared thousands of years ago in various areas at the same time, including China, India, Mesopotamia, and Egypt.
The oldest clay tablets with mathematics date back over 4,000 years ago in Mesopotamia. The oldest written texts on mathematics are Egyptian papyruses. Since these are some of the oldest societies on Earth, it makes sense that they would have been the first to discover the basics of mathematics.
More advanced mathematics can be traced to ancient Greece over 2,500 years ago. Ancient mathematician Pythagoras had questions about the sides of a right triangle. His questioning, research, and testing led to a basic understanding of triangles we still study today, known as the Pythagorean Theorem.
Most experts agree that it was around this time (2,500 years ago) in ancient Greece that mathematics first became an organized science. Since that time, mathematical discoveries have spurred other mathematicians and scientists to build upon the work of others, constantly expanding our understanding of mathematics and its relation to the world around us.