Questions from Second GradersDate: Tue, 22 Nov 1994 13:33:01 -0600 (CST) From: Marianne Perez Subject: Math Questions from Second Graders Dear Dr. Math, We are a second grade class at Williams Elementary in Austin, Texas and we have several questions to ask you. 1. Where did the plus sign come from? 2. Who invented numbers? How did they come about? 3. Where did the subtraction sign come from? 4. Why does math have patterns? 5. Who was the first person (people) to use math? 6. Where do the Greater Than and Less Than signs come from? Sincerely, Heather, Tony, Timothy, James, Patty, Abbey, Andrea, Brandt, Shane, Neil, Elise, Jennifer, Jimmy, Lora, Stephanie, Ryan, Nicole, Terrica, Julio Mrs. Perez's Second Grade Class Date: Wed, 30 Nov 1994 11:30:59 -0500 (EST) From: Dr. Sydney Subject: Re: Math Questions from Second Graders, Part 1 Dear Heather, Tony, Timothy, James, Patty, Abbey, Andrea, Brandt, Shane, Neil, Elise, Jennifer, Jimmy, Lora, Stephanie, Ryan, Nicole, Terrica, Julio, Hello there! Thanks for writing Dr. Math -- you asked some good questions. I'm going to answer as many as I can right now before I go to class. Another math doctor or I will answer the rest of the questions later on, okay? 1. Where did the plus sign come from? The plus sign, +, came into use in Germany around 1480. It turns out that the + sign and the word "and" were often interchanged in Latin manuscripts on math. 2. Who invented numbers? How did they come about? This is an interesting question! No one person really invented numbers -- it was an idea that came about naturally. People needed to be able to count things around them. Can you imagine living in a world in which there was no way to express quantity? There might be a better answer to this question--if so one of the other math doctors will write you. Okay, well, I have to go to class now, but one of the other math doctors or I will answer the rest of your questions later. Thanks for writing. --Sydney, AR Date: Wed, 30 Nov 1994 12:33:39 +0000 From: Dr. Math Organization: Swarthmore College Math Doctors Subject: Re: Math Questions from Second Graders Hey, Heather, Tony, Timothy, James, Patty, Abbey, Andrea, Brandt, Shane, Neil, Elise, Jennifer, Jimmy, Lora, Stephanie, Ryan, Nicole, Terrica, Julio >3. Where did the subtraction sign come from? Well the history of the subtraction or minus sign is closely related to the history of the plus sign. Like the plus sign it was not used regularly until the 1480's in Germany. Before that many different symbols were used but since then is has just been - for everybody. >4. Why does math have patterns? > One of my fellow math doctors Ken can often be seen walking around quoting his favorite definition for Math which is "Math is the Study of Patterns". So You can see that he agrees that there are a lot of patterns in math. In fact if there weren't patterns like that then it wouldn't be math. Hope that helps. > 5. Who was the first person (people) to use math? Well just like Sydney's number answer, I must say that I don't think there ever really was a first person to use math. The very oldest documents that have been discovered from any ancient civilization involve using math. There were however many different groups who helped to develop certain ideas in math but everybody has always been using math. > 6. Where do the Greater Than and Less Than signs come from? I looked it up but I couldn't really find a clear source. Certainly by the 1800's they had become standard but I couldn't find a real source for their development and acceptance as standard. Ethan, Doctor On Call |
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