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The origin of mathamatics. By rozina siddique . Ordinal vs. cardinal.

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The origin of mathamatics

The origin of mathamatics

By rozinasiddique.

Ordinal vs cardinal
Ordinal vs. cardinal

  • Through out history, many social needs have required the presence of mathematics. The cardinal number theory is based on the thought that math was made for practical needs, such as how many animals a herdsman has, how to divide an inheritance, and so forth. The alternative ordinal basis is very attractive with numerous supporting arguments. Another view is that mathematics may have an even older basis on ordinals used, perhaps, for rituals and other religious ceremonies, or simply the picking order for eating the fresh game.

Early counting wolf bone
Early counting (wolf bone)

  • The earliest record of counting do not come from words but from physical evidence– scratches on sticks or stones or bones. For example, a young wolf’s shin bone was found in Czechoslovakia in 1937, which is about 7 inches long, and is engraved with 57 deeply cut notches, of about equal , more or less lengths, and was grouped in 5’s. this shows that people from as far back as 30,000 (BCE) knew about how to group and organize ideas into a more easily accessible log for all to follow.

The vedda tribesman
The vedda tribesman

  • The Vedda tribesman of Sri Lanka, when counting coconuts collected sticks and associate one stick with each coconut. They knew the difference between “one” and “many”. For example, when asked to show one coconut, they would point to one, but when asked to point to a pile of coconuts, they responded with “many sticks”.

The vedda tribesman part 2
The Vedda tribesman Part: 2

  • The Vedda had no words for quantities, they counted with this one-to-one association. The impossibility of this only occurs when one decides to look at “many” as more than one thing. The Vedda people regarded a group of things to be equal to one large thing. This is why they didn’t have any problems classifying their coconuts using the system they adopted.

Calculations in tribal settings
Calculations in tribal settings

  • Tribes may have had many reasons for calculations such addition and subtraction. For example, when they had to hunt, tribe people had to know how much food to obtain to feed everyone. They also established forms of rank, ex. The head of the tribe, the strongest, the wisest, the shaman or doctor were all high ranking individual, and in most cases, controlled the actions of the whole tribe. Geometry played a huge part in tribal life. The structure of the homes (teepees, adobe, pueblos) and the way building such as temples and other types of homes.

Calculation in tribal settings part 2
Calculation in tribal settings. Part 2

  • Geometric capabilities were also shown by some tribes who formed their villages or cities in a protective shape, or in a way that suited their environment. For example, early Egyptians built there villages next to the Nile river. But, they always stayed away from the area where the annual floods destroyed. This took a sense of measurement and , most likely, many trial and errors occurred.

Societal growth
Societal growth

  • Geometry and measurements may have played a key roll when it came to the situation where the village or town became too big. Geometry would be able to help the leaders of the group plan out a certain way they want the village to look like. Measurements would have had to be taken in order to evenly distribute land, or in order to build homes. Agriculture also needed measurements to be able to produce abundant crops.

Number words used today
Number-words used today

  • Number words are words that were used to help describe an amount. For example, a “school of fish”, or, a “pack of wolves”. The number words in these examples are “school” and “pack”. By themselves they do not represent any numerical meaning, but when used to describe something, it indicates the prurallity. Using different words to show an amount has been common through out history, and those ancient habit that were developed so long ago, still hold true today.


  • J. Bogoshi, K. Naidoo and J.Webb, “The oldest mathematical artifact,” Math. Gazette,71:458 (1987) 294.

  • J. de Heinzelin, “Ishango,” Scintific America, 206: 6 (June 1962)105-116

  • G. Joseph, the crest of the peacock, Penguin Books, 1991.

  • A. Marshack, The root of civilization, McGraw – Hill,1972.

  • Seidenberg,A. The ritual origin of counting. Arch. Hist. Exact Sci. 2 (1962b), 1-40.