Who Invented Fractions?

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Fractions weren't introduced until Hindi mathematicians started defining them many years after the Roman Empire. Find out how people used to avoid using fractions with help from a math teacher in this free video on fractions in math.

Part of the Video Series: Fractions & Proportions
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Video Transcript

So who invented the wonderful world of fractions? Hi, I'm Jimmy Chang. I've been teaching College Mathematics for nine years now and fractions actually has a little shorter history than we all might think. As a matter of fact, a lot of civilizations work with division a lot; but when it came to the formal definitions or introductions of fractions, some folks really got around that by doing other things. So here's an example. Take the Romans. The Romans always work with whole numbers. Now, how do they get around the whole fraction idea? Well, they work a lot with feet. If they wanted to work with parts of a feet, or parts of a foot, they would convert to a smaller unit. For example, they would take a part of a foot and will convert it to inches and so they got around the whole fraction idea by simply working with smaller units so they don't have to work with the whole idea of fractions. But it wasn't until hundreds of years later, after the Roman Empire that Hindu Mathematicians formally introduced the idea of fractions and the definitions and terminology behind that. But the one kind, type of terminology and notation that we can thank the Arabic Mathematicians for is that of the fraction bar. Take for example, the fraction 3/4. Three fourths has a dividing bar. Well that fraction bar can be credited to the Arabic Mathematicians because without it, who knows how we might be writing fractions to this day. So, I'm Jimmy Chang and that gives you a brief overview as to the invention of fractions.


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