How Did They Do Math in Ancient Greece?

Mathematics has a rich history that dates back thousands of years. One of the most influential periods in the development of mathematical thinking was ancient Greece. In this article, we will explore how the ancient Greeks approached mathematics and how their contributions continue to impact the field today.

Ancient Greek Mathematics

The ancient Greeks made significant advancements in various branches of mathematics, including geometry, arithmetic, and number theory. Their mathematical discoveries laid the foundation for much of what we know today.


The Greeks placed great emphasis on geometry, with mathematicians like Euclid and Pythagoras making groundbreaking contributions to the field. Euclid’s book, “Elements,” is considered one of the most influential mathematical works in history. It introduced a systematic approach to geometry and laid out fundamental principles such as axioms, postulates, and proofs.

Euclidean geometry revolutionized how geometric problems were approached and solved. It provided a logical framework for reasoning about shapes, angles, lines, and planes. The Pythagorean theorem, discovered by Pythagoras, is another notable contribution from this era that remains widely used today.


In addition to geometry, the ancient Greeks also delved into arithmetic. They developed sophisticated methods for performing calculations using whole numbers and fractions.

  • The Greek mathematician Diophantus made significant advances in algebraic equations and introduced symbols to represent unknown quantities. His work laid the groundwork for algebraic thinking.
  • Archimedes, another prominent Greek mathematician, made important contributions to calculating areas and volumes using infinitesimals. His method of exhaustion was a precursor to calculus.

Number Theory

The ancient Greeks were also fascinated by numbers and their properties. Pythagoras and his followers believed that numbers held mystical and spiritual significance.

Pythagoras’ school developed the concept of perfect numbers, which are numbers that equal the sum of their proper divisors. They also explored prime numbers extensively. The Sieve of Eratosthenes, devised by Eratosthenes, is a method for finding prime numbers that is still taught in schools today.

Legacy of Ancient Greek Mathematics

The contributions of the ancient Greeks to mathematics have had a lasting impact on the field. Their systematic approach to mathematical thinking laid the groundwork for future developments and continues to be taught in schools today.

Euclidean geometry remains a fundamental branch of mathematics, and many geometric principles established by the ancient Greeks are still used in various fields, including architecture and engineering.

Algebraic thinking, introduced by Diophantus, is essential in solving equations and forms the basis for advanced algebraic concepts studied today.

Their fascination with numbers and number theory paved the way for further exploration in this field. Many ongoing mathematical research topics trace their origins back to the work done by ancient Greek mathematicians.

In Conclusion

The ancient Greeks made significant contributions to mathematics through their advancements in geometry, arithmetic, and number theory. Their systematic approach to problem-solving and logical reasoning laid the foundation for much of what we know today.

From Euclidean geometry to algebraic thinking, their ideas continue to shape our understanding of mathematics. The legacy of ancient Greek mathematics serves as a testament to human curiosity and ingenuity in exploring the world of numbers.