Hints of Trigonometry on a 3,700-Year-Old Babylonian Tablet
By Kenneth Chang August 29, 2017
Suppose that a ramp leading to the top of a ziggurat wall is 56 cubits long, and the vertical height of the ziggurat is 45 cubits. What is the distance x from the outside base of the ramp to the point directly below the top? (Ziggurats were terraced pyramids built in the ancient Middle East; a cubit is a length of measure equal to about 18 inches or 44 centimeters.)Could the Babylonians who lived in what is now Iraq more than 3,700 years ago solve a word problem like this?
Two Australian mathematicians assert that an ancient clay tablet was a tool for working out trigonometry problems, possibly adding to the many techniques that Babylonian mathematicians had mastered.
|An ancient Babylonian tablet known as Plimpton 322 consists of a table of 60 numbers organized into 15 rows and four columns.Andrew Kelly/University of New South Wales|
Rest of article.
Sadly, I could not make heads nor tails out of the word problem as I did not think I had enough information to solve what I understood the problem to be asking for. However, what the article says is that it was a simple calculation of the length of the third side of a right triangle when we had the measurement for the other two sides. Even I remember how to solve for any side of a right triangle if I have the two other numbers from high school trig, taken eons ago. Really - that is what the word problem is asking me to solve for? The way I read this problem, it was asking for the actual length of the ramp as measured on its outermost edge from its beginning (pick a corner, any corner, and go around each level upward from there) up to the point (how do you determine what "point?") just below the peak of the structure. I did not read this to be a simple solve for "b" in "a squared" + "b squared" = "c squared." LOL! Silly me. No wonder parents can't help their kids with this new math these days, geez! Its indecipherable! Who wrote that problem - is English their third or fourth language?