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Line Segments and the Origins of Geometry

Date: 7 Jun 1995 15:08:44 -0400
From: cad09
Subject: math question

Dear Dr. Math,

        Our names are Susan Hong and Betty Lam.  We are both in 
sixth grade at Cadwallader Elementary School.  We are wondering 
if you could answer some questions for us?  

One of our questions is, "How can segments be lines?"  
Another question is, "Why do you call geometry geometry?"  

                                     Susan Hong and Betty Lam  

Date: 7 Jun 1995 15:15:45 -0400
From: Heather Mateyak
Subject: Re: math question

Hi Susan and Betty,

Well, I really don't think a segment CAN be a line.  A line is defined to go
on to infinity in both directions.  It has no endpoints, yet segments are
defined to have two distinct endpoints.  Are these the definitions you are
familiar with?  If not, write back, and we can talk about it some more.

Now about the second question, I am going to have to leave that to another
Dr. Math since I don't have any math history books around me.  I think that
geometry is an English form of a Greek word, because Greece was the
birthplace (so to speak) of geometry.  And a lot of times you can break up
the word to see what its 'root words' are.  I think the two roots of
geometry are 'geo' and 'metry'.  'geo' may have to do with earth, and
'metry' is a form of the word for measuring, I think.  But I hope one of the
other Drs. Math will confirm this for you.  I'm just making a stab at it.


Date: 8 Jun 1995 11:34:21 -0400
From: Dr. Ken
Subject: Re: math question

Hello Susan and Betty!

Yes, Heather was right, the word "geometry" comes from the Greek 
words "geo" (which means Earth) and "metron" (which means to measure).  
Originally, the study of geometry was the study of measuring the Earth, 
whether it was for laying out a farmer's fields, estimating the distance 
across a lake, or parcelling out an old man's land among his children.

Thanks for the question!

Associated Topics:
Elementary Definitions
Elementary Geometry
Elementary Two-Dimensional Geometry

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