# Curious Beginnings

# Curious Beginnings

This chapter traces the beginnings of mathematical notation. For tens of thousands of years, humans had been leaving signification marks in their surroundings, gouges on trees, footprints in hard mud, scratches in skin, and even pigments on rocks. A simple mark can represent a thought, indicate a plan, or record a historical event. Yet the most significant thing about human language and writing is that speakers and writers can produce a virtually infinite set of sounds, declarations, notions, and ideas from a finite set of marks and characters. The chapter discusses the emergence of the alphabet, counting, and mathematical writing. It also considers the discovery of traces of Sumerian number writing on clay tablets in caves from Europe to Asia, the use of Egyptian hieroglyphics, and algebra problems in the Rhind (or Ahmes) papyrus that presented simple equations without any symbols other than those used to indicate numbers.

*Keywords:*
mathematical notation, language, writing, alphabet, counting, numbers, Egyptian hieroglyphics, algebra

Princeton Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs , and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us.