EDUCATION: Multicultural Math

Science  30 Jul 2004:
Vol. 305, Issue 5684, pp. 585
DOI: 10.1126/science.305.5684.585a

Modern churchgoers might toss a few dollars in the collection plate, but they probably don't think to leave math problems. In 17th to 19th century Japanese temples, however, mathematically adept worshippers often posted geometrical puzzles carved into wooden tablets, known as sangaku. The purpose of sangaku remains mysterious; they might have been offerings or intellectual taunts to other temple visitors.

To try solving some of these problems or to learn more about the math know-how of various cultures, drop by the Ethnomathematics Digital Library. With information for everyone from students to scholars, the site provides annotated links to more than 300 papers, Web sites, book reviews, and other resources. You can delve into cultures ranging from New Zealand's Maori to the Incas of South America, who recorded numbers on knotted strings called khipus.

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