Sunday, September 9, 2012

History of Math Tools

History of math tools...

Through the ages, mankind has used various tools to perform calculations.  Some use fingers. 

Others used an abacus (Not this one.  It’s missing a bead.).  

In 1634, William Oughtred invented the slide rule.  This one has more scales, some of which were added by Amadee Mannheim, a French cavalry officer.   The slide rule was the best tool available for 300 years.

In 1968, Hewlett Packard produced the first scientific calculator.  Through the years more features have been added by a number of manufacturers.   I use the TI-89.

The latest and greatest tool is the computer algebra system.  The development of computer algebra systems began in the 1960s.  
Two popular commercial systems are Maple and Mathematica.

The essential math software tool

These programs will solve equations and draw pretty colored graphs.  They are programmable, complete with do loops and if-else statements.    I was introduced to Maple first and will use it in this blog.  Go to and, if you are a student, buy the student edition.
Most current math teachers were not taught the pencil and paper procedure for getting the square root of a number by grouping digits in groups of two in both directions from the decimal point.  They are perfectly happy to use, and let students use, a calculator to obtain the square root of 231.67. 
Those same teachers begin to hyperventilate when I suggest we no longer need to teach long division, a very similar procedure.
Next Blog: Solving equations.

No comments:

Post a Comment