Historical Tidbits: The Pharaoh’s Treasure

[Read the story of the pharaoh’s treasure here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.]

I confess: I lied — or rather, I helped to propagate a legend. Scholars tell us that the Egyptian rope stretchers did not use a 3-4-5 triangle for right-angled corners. They say it is a myth, like the corny old story of George Washington and the cherry tree, which bounces from one storyteller to the next — as I got it from a book I bought as a library discard.

None of the Egyptian papyri that have been found show any indication that the Egyptians knew of the Pythagorean Theorem, one of the great theorems of mathematics, which is the basis for the 3-4-5 triangle. Unless a real archaeologist finds a rope like Alexandria Jones discovered in my story, or a papyrus describing how to use one, we must assume the 3-4-5 rope triangle is an unfounded rumor.

Continue reading Historical Tidbits: The Pharaoh’s Treasure

Carnival, Carnival, Carnival

The 120th Carnival of Education is now up and running at I Thought a Think. As always, a wide variety of interesting articles to browse. Enjoy!

Carnival of MathematicsEdited to add: Oops! I missed the 8th Carnival of Mathematics last week.
My favorite posts mostly came in pairs.

Two puzzles from MathNotations:
When Curves Collide
Going off on Tangents

Two brainteasers from SharpBrains:
The Unkindest Cut of All
The Really, Really, Really Big Number

Two mind-blowing infinity puzzles that were fun to read, even though I didn’t really understand the answers:
Cats in a Tree
Dogs in a Mineshaft

And the odd-one-out is a history post:
Calculators: Past, Present and Future

My Favorite Unpopular Posts

I get a bit tired of the various memes [definition: things to blog about when you have no ideas of your own, a state with which I can easily identify!] that float around the blogsphere—songs from A’s iPod, irrelevant things that nobody knew about B, or C’s favorite TV commercials… But Dana at Principled Discovery has a new meme that actually looks interesting.

Objective: Share ten of your favorite posts, although they went largely unnoticed in the broader blogosphere.

Continue reading My Favorite Unpopular Posts

What’s the Point?

That is the question asked by The Gonzo Education Carnival at Principled Discovery. The answer includes two posts on mathematics:

W W Sawyer – a man before his time?
An unschooler in Germany reviews of one of my favorite books.

Why study mathematics?
An “oldie but goodie” post of mine.

howtosolveproblemsWant to help your kids learn math? Claim your free 24-page problem-solving booklet, and sign up to hear about new books, revisions, and sales or other promotions.

The Secret of the Pharaoh’s Treasure, Part 3

[In the last episode, Alexandria Jones discovered a mysterious treasure: three wooden sticks, like tent pegs, and a long loop of rope with 12 evenly spaced knots. Her father explained that it was an ancient Egyptian surveyor’s tool, used to mark right angles.]

Back at the camp, Fibonacci Jones stacked multi-layer sandwiches while Alexandria poured milk and set the table for supper.

“Geometry,” Fibonacci said.


Geo means earth, and metry means to measure. So geometry means to measure the earth. That is what the Egyptian rope stretches did.”

Alex thought for a moment. “So in the beginning, math was just surveying?”

“And taxes…”

Continue reading The Secret of the Pharaoh’s Treasure, Part 3

Quotations IX: A Good Student Is…

Aaaargh! My Internet service is on the brink again. But since I had to run into my husband’s office to check email, I’ll take a few minutes to post a quick note. Here are a couple of quotes especially for teachers:

The only teaching that a professor can give, in my opinion, is that of thinking in front of his students.

Henri Léon Lebesgue

A good student is one who will teach you something.

Irving Kaplansky

howtosolveproblemsWant to help your kids learn math? Claim your free 24-page problem-solving booklet, and sign up to hear about new books, revisions, and sales or other promotions.