• Question: How long have fractions been discovered?

    Asked by anon-1915 on 1 Jul 2020.
    • Photo: Peter Kropholler

      Peter Kropholler answered on 1 Jul 2020:

      Thousands of years, perhaps many thousands.

    • Photo: Andrew Harrison

      Andrew Harrison answered on 1 Jul 2020:

      The earliest recorded use of fractions dates back to the Egyptians, about 1800 B.C. So about four thousand years ago.

    • Photo: Richard Pinch

      Richard Pinch answered on 1 Jul 2020:

      There’s an article at the NRICH website https://nrich.maths.org/2515 which gives you some of the history. The Ancient Egyptians (going back about 3800 years) had a complicated system based on reciprocals, so instead of writing, say, 3/5 they would write it as 1/2 + 1/10. The Babylonians (going back a little longer) used a system in which everything was based on 60-ths. In fact, that’s the reason we still divide time up in that way, 1 minute = 1/60 of an hour, 1 second = 1/60 of a minute. Try expressing 3/5, 1/2 and 1/10 all in terms of something/60 to check what I said about 3/5 being equal to 1/2 + 1/10 !