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One of the earliest known examples of math homework
BoingBoing ^ | at 10:42 am Thursday, Dec 1 2011 | By Maggie Koerth-Baker

Posted on 12/01/2011 7:56:37 PM PST by thecodont

It's stuff like this that makes me love archaeology. Turns out, we can trace the concept of math homework back to at least 2300 B.C.E., in ancient Mesopotamia.

In the early 20th century, German researchers found several clay tablets at the site of Šuruppak. (Today, that's basically the Iraqi city of Tell Fara.) Some of the tablets appear to be the remains of math instruction, including two different tablets that are working the same story problem.

A loose translation of the problem is: A granary. Each man receives 7 sila of grain. How many men? That is, the tablets concern a highly artificial problem and certainly present a mathematical exercise and not an archival document. The tablets give the statement of the problem and its answer (164571 men - expressed in the sexagesimal system S since we are counting men - with 3 sila left over). However, one of the tablets gives an incorrect solution. When analyzing these tablets, Marvin Powell commented famously that it was, "written by a bungler who did not know the front from the back of his tablet, did not know the difference between standard numerical notation and area notation, and succeeded in making half a dozen writing errors in as many lines."

That comes from a site set up by Duncan Mellville, a math professor at St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY. He's actually got a whole collection of essays on Mesopotamian mathematics. I am certain, that by posting this, I've just ruined somebody's productivity for, like, a week.

(Excerpt) Read more at boingboing.net ...


TOPICS: Education; History; Science
KEYWORDS: archaeology; cuneiform; godsgravesglyphs; math; mesopotamia

1 posted on 12/01/2011 7:56:40 PM PST by thecodont
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To: SunkenCiv

Ping.


2 posted on 12/01/2011 7:57:33 PM PST by thecodont
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To: thecodont

ping... what grade is that? Probably more advanced than out high schools can understand these days. lol


3 posted on 12/01/2011 8:00:52 PM PST by GeronL (The Right to Life came before the Right to Pursue Happiness)
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To: thecodont

How do they know it wasn’t a HR candidate exam for a grain distribution center?


4 posted on 12/01/2011 8:02:38 PM PST by Deaf Smith
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To: thecodont

Was the homework found in the midsection of a dog’s skeleton?


5 posted on 12/01/2011 8:04:32 PM PST by count-your-change (You don't have to be brilliant, not being stupid is enough.)
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To: thecodont
When analyzing these tablets, Marvin Powell commented famously that it was, "written by a bungler who did not know the front from the back of his tablet, did not know the difference between standard numerical notation and area notation, and succeeded in making half a dozen writing errors in as many lines."

Mr. Powell probably could count his friends on one hand.

6 posted on 12/01/2011 8:07:13 PM PST by the invisib1e hand (omg - obama must go!)
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To: count-your-change
Was the homework found in the midsection of a dog’s skeleton?

lols.

Re the tagline: it's probably easier to be brilliant than to not be stupid.

7 posted on 12/01/2011 8:09:07 PM PST by the invisib1e hand (omg - obama must go!)
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To: thecodont
Now I can rail against the use of "B.C.E." and attempts to eradicate Christ -- particular since I went to the original site and looked around and found that Doctor Duncan J. Melville, who teaches this History of Mathematics course, uses "BC" in his dates.

Shame of boingboing.

8 posted on 12/01/2011 8:15:07 PM PST by Tanniker Smith (I didn't know she was a liberal when I married her.)
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To: Tanniker Smith; BoingBoing
"Shame of boingboing. "

Ping

9 posted on 12/01/2011 8:22:07 PM PST by Paladin2
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To: thecodont
The tablets give the statement of the problem and its answer (164571 men - expressed in the sexagesimal system

Sexagesimal is base 60 and is used for time keeping. 60 is a highly composite number, which is why it's easy to break down time into intervals such as quarter and half hours. It's very convenient when math has to be done in your head. 10 which is the base of the Communist metric system isn't highly composite.

10 posted on 12/01/2011 8:23:50 PM PST by Moonman62 (The US has become a government with a country, rather than a country with a government.)
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To: Moonman62

Wouldn’t that be the fault of the Arabs for not inventing enough digits?


11 posted on 12/01/2011 8:30:41 PM PST by Paladin2
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To: thecodont; StayAt HomeMother; Ernest_at_the_Beach; decimon; 1010RD; 21twelve; 24Karet; ...

 GGG managers are SunkenCiv, StayAt HomeMother & Ernest_at_the_Beach
Thanks thecodont.

To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list.


12 posted on 12/01/2011 8:33:12 PM PST by SunkenCiv (It's never a bad time to FReep this link -- https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/)
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To: count-your-change

LOL! Good one!


13 posted on 12/01/2011 9:04:06 PM PST by CrazyIvan (Obama's birth certificate was found stapled to Soros's receipt.)
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To: thecodont

The problem sounds so much like the ones in the high school freshman algebra texts we used—until we get to the base 60 system. Made me a little lonesome for so many friends and buddies.


14 posted on 12/01/2011 9:27:40 PM PST by righttackle44 (I may not be much, but I raised a United States Marine)
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To: Paladin2

We’re able to do timekeeping with a combination of the two systems.


15 posted on 12/01/2011 9:56:01 PM PST by Moonman62 (The US has become a government with a country, rather than a country with a government.)
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To: Moonman62

16 posted on 12/01/2011 10:38:52 PM PST by Erasmus (I love "The Raven," but then what do I know? I'm just a poetaster.)
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To: Erasmus
I found this in the entry for Metric Time on Wiki:
An opening scene of Fritz Lang's 1927 film Metropolis shows a metric clock with ten numbers instead of twelve, illustrating the improved efficiency of future industrial society.
I like movie references but didn't know about that one.
17 posted on 12/01/2011 10:55:20 PM PST by Moonman62 (The US has become a government with a country, rather than a country with a government.)
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To: thecodont

Math homework...the day childhood no longer was fun in the annals of human history.


18 posted on 12/02/2011 4:25:38 AM PST by BobL ("Heartless" and "Inhumane" FReepers for Cain - we've HAD ENOUGH)
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To: thecodont

No, this is early evidence of torture. Presumably used on prisoners of war.


19 posted on 12/02/2011 4:39:40 AM PST by 9YearLurker
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To: BobL

Math homework was fun up to Advanced Differential Equations.


20 posted on 12/02/2011 5:41:56 AM PST by Paladin2
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To: Moonman62

I guess counting on fingers and toes wasn’t a problem.


21 posted on 12/02/2011 6:03:44 AM PST by NTHockey (Rules of engagement #1: Take no prisoners)
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To: BobL

Hey, I liked math homework until the middle of Calc III.


22 posted on 12/02/2011 6:25:21 AM PST by FourPeas ("Maladjusted and wigging out is no way to go through life, son." -hg)
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To: count-your-change

now that was funny


23 posted on 12/02/2011 7:56:28 AM PST by beebuster2000
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To: Paladin2
Math homework was fun up to Advanced Differential Equations.

But complex eigenvalues and the associated eigenvectors are fun until they spiral out of control, and the joy of encountering something as convoluted as convolutions cannot be expressed.

24 posted on 12/02/2011 8:45:34 AM PST by Pollster1 (Natural born citizen of the USA, with the birth certificate to prove it)
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To: Pollster1

Everybody has their own path and values.


25 posted on 12/02/2011 8:48:56 AM PST by Paladin2
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To: thecodont

26 posted on 12/02/2011 8:52:34 AM PST by dfwgator (I stand with Herman Cain.)
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To: NTHockey
Counting to 60 by finger joints
27 posted on 12/02/2011 10:14:07 AM PST by Moonman62 (The US has become a government with a country, rather than a country with a government.)
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To: Paladin2

you got that right.


28 posted on 12/02/2011 1:52:15 PM PST by brivette
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