History of Algebra

History of Algebra

Oliver (2007) reviews the historical prominence of symbols, which is commonly part of modern day algebra studies. These symbols come from Egypt and Greece. The Babylonians constructed the first multiplication tables. The Egyptians used different methods of multiplication that did not include the simple and difficult method of memorization of the tables. The Egyptian method of multiplication combines two simple techniques of doubling a number and factoring a numbers to find a common factor. This technique also works for division as well.

Bellomo and Wertheimer (2010) research discovers that a brief study and history of a mathematics course, like algebra, may alleviate student’s fears and help the m to see that algebra mathematical concepts were not conquered overnight. Students have a difficult time with positive and negative numbers, but when this concept is connected to real life applications like temperature and banking then a light comes on to help their understanding of those concepts.

History of Algebra - 16th Century

The 16th century brings about the solving of general cubic equations and soon fourth degree equations as well. Mathematicians for the next centuries try to find formulas for the roots of equations in the fourth, fifth, and even higher degrees. This solution was never proven.

Algebra uses symbols, normally with the letter “X” to represent the unknown. This is the basis for algebra, that is, to find something, a value, which is not known, but is needed to complete an application of a project.

An application of this is in the normal mixing of products in a store during the holiday season, such as mixing peanuts, pecans, walnuts, etc. The price that is stated on the tag was not by accident. Algebra was used to combine the amount and the price of the final mixture.


Bellomo, C., & Wertheimer, C. (2010). A Discussion And Experiment On Incorporating History Into The Mathematics Classroom. Journal Of College Teaching & Learning, 7(4), 19-24.

Oliver, J. (2007). How Our Methods of Writing Algebra Have Evolved: A Thread through History. Australian Senior Mathematics Journal, 21(2), 12-17.

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