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Good Math by Mark C. Chu-Carroll

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A 4000-Year-Old Math Exam

We don’t know that much about the origins of Egyptian fractions. What we do know is that the earliest written record of their use is in an Egyptian scroll from roughly the eighteenth century BC, which is why they’re known as Egyptian fractions.

That scroll, known as the Rhind Papyrus, is one of the most fascinating documents in the entire history of mathematics. It appears to be something along the lines of a textbook of Egyptian mathematics! It’s a set of what look like exam questions along with fully worked answers. The scroll includes tables of fractions written in unit-fraction sum form, as well as numerous algebra (in roughly the form we use today!) and geometry problems. From the wording of the scroll, it’s ...

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