Cultural Maths

A page from Widmann's 1489 work showing examples of the addition and subtraction signs being used.
A page from Widmann’s book, containing the first use of the plus and minus signs in print. 
Image credit: Johannes Widmann, public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Maths Symbols

Did you know that in Egyptian hieroglyphics, symbols resembling a pair of legs were used to represent either addition or subtraction?

An image of the Roman numerals 1 to 12.
Roman numerals.
Image credit: public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Roman Numerals

You have been writing Roman numerals wrong! The Romans wrote 4 as IIII instead of IV, and 9 as VIIII instead of IX. They also wrote 13 as IIIX, and 16 as VIX, to preserve how the numbers were written in Latin (for example, 13 was ‘tertio decimo’ which translates to ‘3 from 10’).

Inca manuscript depicting a man holding a quipu in the centre. On the bottom left corner, a ‘Poma de Ayala’ Yupana.
An Inca manuscript depicting a man holding a quipu.
Image credit:
Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala, public domain via Wikimedia Commons.


Did you know that, despite having no form of writing, the Inca Empire population used complex instruments to perform mathematical operations? 

Picture of a statue of Zu Chongzhi.
A statue of Zu Chongzhi.
Image credit: 三猎, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

𝜋 and Zu Chongzhi

Did you know that a world record held for over 900 years for calculating the value of 𝜋 was made using only wooden sticks?

Picture of an Omar calendar inscribed upon an ancient tablet.
Omar Calendar and Tablet.
Image credit: Baruch Zvi Ring, public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

The Hebrew Calendar

Did you know that time zones were invented 800 years before railroads made them necessary?  

Picture of the Fibonacci system spiral.
The Fibonacci system spiral.
Image credit: Romain, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Fibonacci Sequence

Did you know that the Fibonacci sequence was discovered by Indian mathematicians, around 450 Before Christ (BC)?

Title page of Billingsley's English edition of Euclid's Elements showing elaborate drawings.
The title page of Sir Henry Billingsley’s English edition of The Elements.
Image credit: Sir Henry Billingsley, public domain via Wikimedia Commons   

Euclid’s Elements

Did you know that a book about geometry may have the second highest number of editions ever, with only the Bible having more?

Example of maths textbook from Edo period Japan.
Example of a maths textbook from the Japanese Edo period.
Image credit: Momotarou2012, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.


Did you know that in Japan they used to leave maths problems at shrines as offerings?

Scroll to Top