Ancient Egyptian mathematics was from the math we use today

Ana Dias

In 1865 The British Museum acquired a papyrus from Alexander Henry Rhind, a Scottish antiquarian, who in turn had purchased it in 1858 in Luxor, Egypt. The papyrus has fascinating mathematical problems, which allow us to see how different Ancient Egyptian mathematics was from the math we use today. In this presentation I will give an overview of the Rhind Papyrus, its history and its contents. Then I will focus on the way Ancient Egyptian multiplied and divided –which entails a method of doubling and halving – and their peculiar use of fractions. I will go over problems 1 through 6 of the papyrus, which shows the way employers divided loaves of bread among their employees as payment for their work. Participants will have a chance to compare those solutions to how we would solve the problems today, and will be able take a glimpse into the minds of Egyptian scientists and mathematicians and what kind of practical preoccupations were relevant to them in this kind of problem. If you can count and share a cake or a loave of bread among your friends and family, you can follow and even actively participate in this presentation. No math required other than elementary counting, doubling, halving, and partitioning. Pictures, audiovisuals, and concrete materials will make the presentation appealing to various senses.