Free Math History: Number Stories of Long Ago

If you teach elementary children, check out this read-aloud math history resource from Homeschool Freebie of the Day:

Number Stories of Long Ago
by David Eugene Smith

[This download is available for one day only. If you missed it, see the end of this post for other ways to get the book.]

From the Preface

“These are the stories that were really told in the crisp autumn evenings, the Story Teller sitting by the fire that burned in the great fireplace in the cottage by the sea. These are the stories as he told them to the Tease and the rest of the circle of friends known as the Crowd. Sitting by the fire and listening to the stories, in the lights and shadows of the dancing flames they could see the forms of Ching and Lugal and all the rest with their curious dress of long ago…”

Math History from the Story Teller

“Night after night he told these tales of the ages past, stories unlike the make believes they had often heard, stories of what might really have happened when the world was young, stories that the Crowd said were ‘different’ because they told of much that was new, much that was curious, and much that was interesting.

“So the Crowd learned many strange things that have happened in Number Land, but they learned much more than this; for the Story Teller told them much that was interesting about the way in which boys and girls used to write in centuries long past — how Ching wrote on palm leaves, and Lugal on bricks, and Hippias on parchment.

“He also told them about many of the number puzzles that have delighted boys and girls for thousands of years, so that the Tease found new tricks to play on all her friends, and the Crowd found much to think about as the stories were related by the great log fire.

“Is this history? Never mind. What is history but a story, and is not every story a history of something? Why bother our heads over history? For us the story is the important thing.”

Yes, Number Stories Is Still Available

If you missed the Homeschool Freebies edition, Number Stories of Long Ago is also available as a real book or (at least in the U.S.) as a scanned library book from Google Books.

Or try downloading a copy for your Kindle (or Nook, Kobo, Sony Reader, etc.):

6 thoughts on “Free Math History: Number Stories of Long Ago

  1. Thanks for the useful post – but I missed the download (this is so disappointing!). I tried the links at the end of your post. They do not seem to work (?) – (the error message for the .pdf download is: URL not found; for the Google Reader – I can’t see any pages to read – only the book cover shows up). Is there another place where a .pdf download is available? Thanks for your help.

  2. Hmm. Both of the Google links worked for me just now, and I am on a different computer than I was yesterday. (My computer died once again. Frustrating beast!) I don’t know enough about computers to suggest anything, except that if you have access to another one you might try that. Or try with a different browser? Perhaps yours doesn’t like Google?

    Edited to add: A teacher in Canada (who also couldn’t get the book) said that Google won’t allow access to many books from outside the U.S., because of copyright laws. I am not sure why that would apply in this case, with such an old book, but apparently it does.

  3. Hi,

    This book is very interesting…but I can’t download it. Is there another places to download the book?

    Please help me!

    Or why don’t you send me the book at my email?


  4. I’m sorry, Carlos, but it doesn’t seem to be available to anyone outside the U.S., and I don’t know enough about copyright laws to know whether sending it by email is allowed. I know that the Freebies site where I originally found it does not allow their files to be forwarded, and I imagine that Google would frown on it, as well.

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