5 April 2014




Human Needs as a Basis of Growth in Mathematics

Mathematics, like everything else that man has created, exists to fulfill certain human needs and desires. It is very difficult to say at what point of time in the history of mankind, and in which part of the world, mathematics had its birth. 

The fact that it has been steadily pursued for so many centuries, that it has attracted ever increasing attention and that it is now the dominant intellectual interest of mankind shows that it appeals very     powerfully, to mankind. 

Origin of Mathematics

This conclusion is borne out by everything that we know about the origin of mathematics. More than 2,000 years before the beginning of the Christian era, both the Babylonians and the Egyptians were in possession of systematic methods of measuring space and time. They had the knowledge of rudimentary geometry and rudimentary astronomy. 

This rudimentary mathematics was formulated to meet the practical needs of an agricultural population. Their geometry resulted from the measurements made necessary by problems of land surveying Units of measurement, originally a stone or a Vessel of water for weight, eventually became uniform over considerable areas under names which are now almost forgotten. 

Undoubtedly. similar efforts occurred in early times in the southern part of Central Asia along the Indus and Ganges rivers and in Eastern Asia. Projects related to engineering, financing, irrigation, flood control, and navigation required mathematics. Again a usable calendar had to be developed to serve agricultural needs. Zero was defined and this at once led to positional notations for whole numbers and later to the s&e notation fractions. 

The place value system which eventually developed was a gift of this period.These achievements and many more of a similar nature are the triumph of the human spirit. They responded to the needs of human society as it became more complex. Primitive men can hardly be said to have invented or discovered their arithmetic; they actually lived it. The men who shaped the stones in erecting the Temple of Mathematics were widely scattered, a few in Egypt, a few in India, and yet others in Babylon and China These workmen confronted nature and worked in harmony with it. Their products, therefore though scattered in time and space, partook of the unity of nature.

                                                            Growth in Mathematics

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Mathematics is something that the man has himself created to meet the cultural demands of time. Nearly every primitive tribe invented words to represent numbers. But it was only when ancient civilizations such as the Summerian, Babylonian, the Chinese and the Mayan developed trade, architecture, taxation and other civilized contracts that the number systems were developed. 
Thus, mathematics has grown into one of the most important cultural components of our society. Our modern way of life would hardly have been possible without mathematics. Imagine trying to get through the day without using a number in some manner or the other. If a person lacks the ability to compute, he is as good as crippled. For instance, we need to know the time and tell the same. Telling the time is difficult and yet nearly everyone learns it. Soon, we shall lose an important experience of looking at the old fashioned clock with rotating hands, as we shall all be using digital readings to read time. A degree of estimation, not only in money but in ' weights and measures, is very important. 

Many of our daily routine chores involve sorting, ordering and organizing processes. We handle many mechanized devices which require geometrical or spatial skills. For travel, reading of maps, diagrams, interpreting scales becomes an essential part of our intellectual equipment. A knowledge of mathematics is useful to understand and interpret matters such as income tax and read information presented to us by the mass media in numerical form or in the form of graphs and understand the use of phrases such as rising prices, index, per capita income, inflation, stock market index etc. in ordinary day to day language. It is not necessary to provide an exhaustive list to prove the case in favour of "mathematics for survival" or "useful mathematics".

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