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Old and New Arithmetic

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Author:Ivars Peterson (MathLand)
Description: "Three merchants have invested their money in a partnership..." This problem appears in a mathematics textbook known as the Treviso Arithmetic. The original book, written in a Venetian dialect, had no formal title, and its author is unknown. Treviso is the northern Italian city where the book originated in 1478. Intended for self study and aimed at a broad audience not necessarily versed in Latin, this volume had a very practical bent. Venice, along with its country outpost Treviso, was a major trade center during the fifteenth century, and the book's language, examples, and problems reflected a wide range of commercial concerns. The book also introduced a "new math," promoting the use of the Hindu-Arabic numeral system and the pen-and-ink computational algorithms that accompanied this notation. They were well-suited to the bookkeeping essential for burgeoning worldwide enterprises and clearly superior to Roman numerals and the abacus for handling daily business dealings... here's a type of problem that ought to sound familiar: "If 17 men build 2 houses in 9 days, how many days will it take 20 men to build 5 houses?" Some things never seem to change!

Levels: Middle School (6-8), High School (9-12), College
Languages: English
Resource Types: Problems/Puzzles, Articles
Math Topics: Number Sense/About Numbers, History and Biography

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