Education History

Facts about greek math


There are so many areas of society that have been directly influenced by the Ancient Greeks. In fact, pretty much every aspect of our culture can be traced back to the Greeks in some way. They were pioneers and trailblazers and set the benchmark for the way we use things like math, science, and philosophy, even to this day.

In fact, we can learn a lot by looking back at how the Greeks did things and the discoveries they made. There are so many different Greek inventions that have influenced our world and society, but perhaps none more so than what they did with math. There are some things you probably never knew about Greek math, and here are a few to think about.

They used letters

We all know that math these days uses numbers so it might come as a surprise to find out that the Ancient Greeks actually used letters! Despite being highly talented mathematicians, the Greeks rarely used numbers, instead choosing to use geometry and shapes as their specialty. They also chose to use the letters of the Greek alphabet and added a few more in order to make it easier to use them for math. These letters could be combined in order to create separate numbers and build their number system.

They did have numbers though!

In spite of the fact that the Greeks generally used letters to do math, they still actually had numbers. But, these numbers were a little more rudimentary and tended to take the form of numbers influenced by Roman numerals, not to mention Arabic numerals. By using the alphabet they developed, they were able to create more numbers. It’s interesting to note that the numbers they already had were not considered right for their mathematical explorations.

It helped them invent currency

You may not be aware that the Greeks actually invented coin money. They were the first civilization to start assigning value to different coins and placing value on commodities and goods. And, it’s pretty clear none of this would have been possible were it not for the development of Greek math. Math was instrumental in helping to develop and nurture the economy of Ancient Greece, which, in the 4th and 5th centuries, was generally considered to be the best in the world.

They had no zero

One of the key reasons for the development of the Greek math style, especially the use of letters and symbols, was that it was a great way of getting around the issue of them not having a symbol for zero. They used different symbols where we would traditionally use a ‘0’ but this, of course, meant they needed more symbols – hence the development of the Greek alphabet to translate perfectly to math.

It’s pretty clear that the Greeks were setting a precedent for future civilizations, and their evolution with mathematics was one of the most important. We still use math to this day, and we continue to be inspired and influenced by the Greek forms of mathematics. It’s clear that this is one of the most important things the Greeks ever pioneered.