The influence of the East on Maths

Late last Monday evening the Sixth Form Maths Society gathered for the first meeting of 2014. The topic of discussion was The Influence of the Middle and Far East on the History of Maths. We looked at the etymology of the words algebra and zero, both coming from Arabic. We also discussed the origin of numerals from the Hindu, Arabic and Chinese number systems. The history of pi and the solar system came up as we talked about Aryarbahta from 499 AD. This linked to the Babylonian and Egyptian calculations of time through Astronomy: our system of 24 hour days and twelve month year originate from these. Prominent Arabic Mathematicians (al-Karaji, al-Kashi and Omar Khayyam) discovered proof by induction, the cosine rule, binomial theorem and roots of cubic equations, all of which are crucial elements of modern-day Maths. More current mathematical topics were considered when we looked at algorithms used to maximise oil yield in the Middle East. Finally, we touched on Islamic art and how it relates to tessellations and symmetry. The Alhambra in Spain exhibits this, containing all the possible types of symmetry in its many elaborately decorated rooms.

By  Poppy Duncan, Sophia Falkner and Chloe Green (6.1)


Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.

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