The Math Forum

Ask Dr. Math - Questions and Answers from our Archives
Associated Topics || Dr. Math Home || Search Dr. Math

Why was Math Invented?

Date: 2/26/96 at 17:49:51
From: Anonymous
Subject: question

Dr. Math,

Why was math invented?
What about geometry?

Date: 3/5/96 at 10:58:17
From: Doctor Ethan
Subject: Re: question

These are great questions.

There are lots of parts to math and for each part there is 
a different answer, but I will try to give you a few clues.

One of the basic things that math does is to keep track of 
value. It looks at questions like how much or how many.  It was 
probably to answer questions like this that math was first used.  
Let's say you have a bunch of potatoes and so do I, and we want
to know how many potatoes we have together.  At first we might 
just look and say, hey, it looks like you have a lot more than I 
do.  However, eventually we might be more creative.

We could lay out the potatoes next to each other.

Mine  * * * * * * 
Yours * * * * * * * * *

Yep. Sure enough, you have more.

Slowly, investigations like this could result in the use of 
numbers and other forms of math.

So, math was mainly invented because it is a useful way to deal 
with the real world.  What that means is that when math first 
started, word problems were all they had.

Now on to geometry.

Literally geometry means "to measure the earth."

And that is just where it started.  Let's say you were a farmer 
and there were two fields for sale for the same price.  One was a 
triangle and one was a rectangle.  It would be nice if there were 
a way to know which was bigger. Or, if you were a builder, you 
would want to figure out how to get a perfect square or a right 
angle every time.  These are the kinds of questions that geometry 
can answer.

Hope that this helps.

-Doctor Ethan,  The Math Forum

Associated Topics:
Middle School About Math

Search the Dr. Math Library:

Find items containing (put spaces between keywords):
Click only once for faster results:

[ Choose "whole words" when searching for a word like age.]

all keywords, in any order at least one, that exact phrase
parts of words whole words

Submit your own question to Dr. Math

[Privacy Policy] [Terms of Use]

Math Forum Home || Math Library || Quick Reference || Math Forum Search

Ask Dr. MathTM
© 1994- The Math Forum at NCTM. All rights reserved.