What Was Mathematics Used for in Ancient Times?

Mathematics is an integral part of our daily lives, and it has been for thousands of years. From the time of ancient civilizations, mathematics has played a significant role in shaping the way people think about the world around them. In this article, we will take a closer look at what mathematics was used for in ancient times.

What is Mathematics?

Mathematics is the study of numbers, shapes, and patterns. It is a branch of science that deals with the logic of quantity, structure, space, and change. Mathematics has been around for thousands of years and has been used by people from different cultures and civilizations.

Ancient Mathematics

The earliest evidence of mathematical activity dates back to the ancient Sumerians in Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) around 4000 BCE. They developed a system using tokens to represent numbers and quantities which were used for trade purposes.

The ancient Egyptians also made significant contributions to mathematics. They developed a system of hieroglyphs to represent numbers and were able to perform complex calculations involving fractions.

Mathematics in Ancient Greece

Ancient Greece is often referred to as the birthplace of modern mathematics. Greek mathematicians such as Pythagoras, Euclid, Archimedes made significant contributions to the field.

Pythagoras is best known for his theorem on right-angled triangles (a² + b² = c²). Euclid wrote one of the most influential books on geometry called “The Elements.” Archimedes made contributions to geometry and calculus.

Mathematics in Ancient China

In ancient China, mathematics was used for various purposes such as astronomy, calendar-making, construction projects, and military strategy. The Chinese mathematician Liu Hui was responsible for creating accurate approximations for pi (π).

Another prominent Chinese mathematician was Zhu Shijie who wrote a book called “The Precious Mirror of the Four Elements” which covered topics such as algebra and geometry.


In conclusion, mathematics has been used for various purposes in ancient times. From trade to astronomy, it has played a significant role in shaping the way people think about the world around them. The contributions made by ancient civilizations have paved the way for modern mathematics and continue to inspire new discoveries and innovations.