What Is Old English Math?

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Old English math is applicable today because we still use the English system of measurement in America. Discover how Old English has given us the concept of the foot with help from a math teacher in this free video on math history.

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Video Transcript

So what is Old English math? Sounds kind of difficult. Hi. I'm Jimmy Chang. I've been teaching college mathematics for nine years. And Old English math is actually math used back in the, well, older English history. Some of it's due to stories, but a lot of the units that we're going to be talking about today are actually used; well, we use it in everyday life, because we still use the English system of measurement. So here's a couple of units and a little bit of background behind where they came from. Now, we're going to start off first with a foot. Now, we know a foot to be 12 inches, but the story has it that the foot, back in the day, on old English history, was the length of King Henry I's foot. Hence the unit, foot. Now a yard, which we know is to be three feet or 36 inches, back then, was the distance between your nose and your middle finger when you outstretch your arm. So if you stretch out your arm, you can find out the distance from your nose to the middle finger, and that is the definition of what a yard was back then. An inch, which we know approximately to the metric system of centimeter, an inch was 2.54 centimeters. But the story then was it was the width of your thumb. So the width of your thumb was known as an inch. Other units that were used back in Old English math were an acre, which we use today still; gallons, which we still use today, as well; and fathom. One can never fathom how you use the unit fathom. That's actually still used in today's uses. So my name is Jimmy Chang, and that's an introduction to Old English math.


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