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Proofs and Pythagoras - Greek Mathematics



Proofs and Pythagoras - Greek Mathematics
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     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 9 to 12
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   10.57

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    arithmos, hypotenuse, mathematica, cornerstone, geometry, mathematical, textbook, mathematics, northeastern, seafaring, mathematician, inquisitive, arithmetic, unravel, circumference, sixteenth
     content words:    Ancient Greece, Great Pyramid, Pythagorean Theorem, When Syracuse


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Proofs and Pythagoras - Greek Mathematics
By Colleen Messina
  

1     In the high mountains of Greece in the northeastern part of the Mediterranean, a civilization was born that influenced the world for centuries. Ancient Greece made great strides in the areas of art, philosophy, and politics, and its civilization lasted from approximately 2000 BC to 300 BC. Greece also produced some of the finest mathematical minds that ever pondered numbers. The Greeks were the first people of the ancient world who systematically studied geometry, which is the study of the size and shape of an object. While the first surveyors of Egypt understood practical elements of geometry, the Greeks asked why these applications worked. The Greeks wrote down rules for geometry that verified the observations of other ancient mathematicians.
 
2     The Greek language formed the basis of some of the mathematical words we use today. The word geometry comes from a Greek word for "earth measuring." Another modern word that comes from Greek is arithmetic, which comes from arithmos. The Greeks had fun with numbers, and arithmos, which means number, denoted discovering secrets and figuring out puzzles about numbers. The Greek sense of curiosity about numbers probably helped them unravel many problems that earlier mathematicians could not figure out. The Greeks loved to argue, debate, and figure out how to prove everything they observed.
 
3     The Greeks had a simple number system, but it was different from the Egyptian system. While the Egyptians used pictures to represent numbers, the Greeks used the letters of their alphabet. The Greeks got the idea for an alphabet from the Phoenicians, a seafaring people who lived around 1500 BC along the coast of Syria. The Greek number system used units of 5 and 10. The Greek alphabet had twenty-seven letters, so the first nine letters represented the digits 1 through 9; the second nine letters represented the tens, and the last nine letters represented the hundreds. The highest Greek number was 900. The Greeks did not have a zero, and since they rarely needed numbers higher than hundreds, the system worked fairly well. Even though the Greeks were logical about numbers, they were surprisingly superstitious too. Some numbers were evil, while other numbers were friendly or even sacred. Number 10 was the number of harmony. Number 8 was the symbol of death. Odd numbers were female, and even numbers were male.

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