How Did Greek Mathematics Develop?

When I think about the history of mathematics I wonder where numbers come from? Who decided that “one” would be written as “1”, and where did the symbols like pie and the equal sign come from? Well, just like the alphabet and English language has evolved, so has the way we use the mathematical system.

Although it is not certain, Greek mathematics is said to be built up from the Babylonian and Egyptian civilizations. The Greeks took what was known about mathematics and took a more advanced approach. That is, instead of studying mathematics using inductive reasoning, the Greeks used deductive reasoning. Greek mathematics was so different that the other mathematics at this time because of the reasoning and justifications that came with everything they did. A big part of math is asking questions and trying to find the answers and explanations that go with them. Greek mathematicians were some of the first to bring this part of mathematics to life. This particular style of studying mathematics lead to many discoveries for the Greeks. The Greeks helped formalize mathematics by introducing what we now call theorems and proofs. The Greeks created the foundation of math today. That is, everything we want to conjecture or claim to be true, mist be backed with reasoning and proof that it is so. This is primarily thanks to the Greeks. Overall, Greek mathematics can be broken down into three time periods: the Hellenic time, the Golden Age, and the Hellenistic time.

The Hellenic time (6th century B.C.) primarily involved four mathematicians and their associated schools. Plato studied mathematics in a way to understand reality and the world around us. He believed that geometry was the key to understanding the world. Pythagoras was credited with many discoveries and often related music to math. All of the most ancient mathematical texts include one of his bigger discoveries: The Pythagorean Theorem. Thales studied the geometry of lines and thought of abstract geometry which he  was credited with five theorems. Aristotle clearly distinguished axioms and posits.

In the Golden Age (5th century B.C.), Zeno of Elea proposed infinite and studied the relationship of points and numbers which lead to the discovery of irrational numbers.

The Hellenistic time (3rd century B.C.) was when Euclid presented his elements. He clearly defined point and line which lead to his axioms and postulates.

There is still much I do not know about how Greek mathematics developed, but then again there is still much I don’t know about how math came to be. I look forward to discovering more of the mysteries of mathematics!


What is math?

To describe math or my favorite thing about math it a challenge because math today is so enormous. That’s like asking me to choose my favorite ice cream and I can’t because there are so many good flavors and so many different combinations. Similar with math there are so many ways it could be described it makes it a difficult task. Generally, I would describe math as a resource for information. Math can be used to problem solve, find patterns, make predictions, provide reasoning, and much more which is all in the tool box of math – the resource for information.

I mean honestly what would we know or be able to do in this world without math. We use this resource in chemistry, physics, businesses, taxes, accounting, architecture … the list goes on! Say you’re playing Yahtzee and you roll all five dice to show all 3’s, and your friend says, “What is the likelihood of that actually happening?” Math is the resource you would have to utilize to figure that out. What if you’re at the hospital and you need a drug to remain in your system at about the same concentration for the next 10 hours? Your doctor would have to use math to figure out how often to give you the drug.

So obviously, math is important. My question is, “How did math come to be? Someone had to create the system or discover it at least. Then there are all the specific areas of study that people helped develop. I know Euclid was a big part of Geometry. Aristotle strongly believed in logic, mathematical reasoning and justification which likely lead to proofs. The most recent discoveries with math are in the application with technology. We have so many tools know that help us do math calculations such as calculators, math programs, search systems like Google. At the moment, I do not know a lot about the history of mathematics but I am interested to learn more in MTH 495.