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The Journey of Mathematics


Sumerian and Babylonian were perhaps the first people to assign symbols to represent sheaves of wheat, dates, jars of oil, etc. The Babylonians also developed another revolutionary mathematical concept, something else that the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans did not have a circle character for zero. The Babylonians used geometric shapes in their buildings and design and in dice used to play leisure games which were so popular in their society. Their geometry extended to the calculation of the areas of rectangles, triangles, and trapezoids, as well as the volumes of simple shapes such as bricks and cylinders.

Despite many advancements in Babylonian and Chinese mathematics, Indian Mathematics also made great discoveries in advanced mathematics. Mantras of the early Vedic period (before 1000BC discovered the evidence of the use of addition, subtraction, multiplication, cubes and roots, decimals fractions. 4th Century Sanskrit books enumerate Buddha depicting about power system to demonstrate the size of an atom, which comes remarkably close to the actual size of a carbon atom (about 70 trillionths of a meter).

Evidence depicts that the famous Pythagoras theorem was known to ancient India as early as the 8th Century BCE through "Sulba Sutras" through simplified statements. The Indians were hugely responsible for the earliest recorded usage of a circle character for the number zero which is evident in the engravings in a temple in Gwalior around the 9th Century. This brilliant discovery led to the usage of zero for a blank or empty place, bringing about a revolution in the field of calculation and mathematical investigations.

Brahmagupta established the basic mathematical rules for dealing with zero: 1 + 0 = 1; 1 - 0 = 1; and 1 x 0 = 0 (the breakthrough which would make sense of the apparently non-sensical operation 1 ÷ 0 would also fall to an Indian). Brahmagupta also established the rules for dealing with negative numbers, and pointed out that quadratic equations could, in theory, have two possible solutions, one of which could be negative, and he even attempted to write down these rather abstract concepts, using the initials of the names of colors to represent unknowns in his equations, one of the earliest intimations of what we now know as algebra.

5th to the 12th Century is the golden age of discoveries in mathematics in India and has not been given due acknowledgment until recently. Although Greeks used trigonometric for the construction of pyramids, Indian astronomers were able to calculate the sine function through a text called Surya Siddhanta dated as early as 400 CE used for measuring the distance of planets and celestial bodies. Aryabhata also demonstrated solutions to simultaneous quadratic equations and produced an approximation for the value of π equivalent to 3.1416, correct to four decimal places.

The Kerala School of Astronomy and Mathematics was founded in the late 14th Century by Madhava of Sangamagrama, sometimes called the greatest mathematician-astronomer of medieval India. Some of his contributions to geometry and algebra and his early forms of differentiation and integration for simple functions may have been transmitted to Europe via Jesuit missionaries, and it is possible that the later European development of calculus was influenced by his work to some extent.

Though we are not able to understand all the discoveries of mathematics some of the civilization's most prized and proud achievements are wholly reliant on Mathematics. Planes flying seamlessly through the air, high availability of complex medicines, even the computer you are using now – all of these increasingly vital commodities rely on the use and study of numbers. If you are to stop and think just for a few minutes, it becomes inescapably clear that mathematics is pretty well inseparable from life as we know it.

Mathematics is a reasonably neutral subject or call it as Mother of All Subjects, therefore it can easily be combined with any subject. Mathematics & History, Mathematics & English, Mathematics & Spanish or Mathematics & Music are a few of the increasingly broad range of Mathematics based courses available. This rich selection of study areas shows that a Mathematics degree does not have to be purely numerical, but can involve the area of Arts to offer literary, musical or scientific nourishment.

Technology is changing rapidly and the basis of many of these technological changes in mathematics and logic. These changes are so rapid that it would be difficult to predict the skills that people will need at their workplace or at home in the future. But a good basis in mathematics, statistics, and technology will keep you agile enough to adapt to the advances in technology. Logic and quantitative reasoning attained in mathematics courses help us to make better decisions. Learning how to overcome the challenges is an asset that will pay dividends throughout our lives. These challenges may be a complex statistical analysis or one of the many challenges you face in your life.