Mathematics in Africa South of the Sahara

  • Paulus Gerdes
Reference work entry

Most books on the history of mathematics devote only a few pages to Africa, and even then only to Ancient Egypt and to northern Africa during the Middle Ages. Generally they ignore the existence of mathematics in Africa south of the Sahara. They often deny that Egyptian mathematics is African. With the publication of Claudia Zaslavsky's Africa Counts: Number and Pattern in African Culturein 1973 this dominant Eurocentric view of the history of mathematics in Africa became challenged. When one uses a broad definition of mathematics – including counting, locating, measuring, designing, playing, explaining, classifying, sorting, etc. – it becomes clear that mathematics is a pan‐cultural phenomenon manifesting itself in many ways. In African history, we have evidence of counting and numeration systems, games and puzzles, geometry, graphs, record‐keeping, money, weights, and measures, etc. Mathematics in Africa may not be considered in isolation either from the development of culture and...

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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg New York 2008

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  • Paulus Gerdes

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