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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Mathematics (colloquially, maths or math), is the body of knowledge centered on concepts such as quantity, structure, space, and change, and also the academic discipline that studies them.


The word mathematics comes from the Greek μάθημα (máthēma), which, in the ancient Greek language, means "that which is learnt", "what one gets to know", hence also "study" and "science", and in modern Greek just "lesson". The word máthēma is derived from μανθάνω (manthano), while the modern Greek equivalent is μαθαίνω (mathaino), both of which mean "to learn". In Greece, the word for "mathematics" came to have the narrower and more technical meaning "mathematical study" even in Classical times. Its adjective is mathēmatikós), meaning "related to learning" or "studious", which likewise further came to mean "mathematical". In particular, mathēmatikḗ tékhnē, ars mathematica, meant "the mathematical art".

In Latin, and in English until around 1700, the term mathematics more commonly meant "astrology" (or sometimes "astronomy") rather than "mathematics"; the meaning gradually changed to its present one from about 1500 to 1800. This has resulted in several mistranslations: a particularly notorious one is Saint Augustine's warning that Christians should beware of mathematici meaning astrologers, which is sometimes mistranslated as a condemnation of mathematicians.

The apparent plural form in English, like the French plural form les mathématiques (and the less commonly used singular derivative la mathématique), goes back to the Latin neuter plural mathematica (Cicero), based on the Greek plural ta mathēmatiká, used by Aristotle (384–322 BC), and meaning roughly "all things mathematical"; although it is plausible that English borrowed only the adjective mathematic(al) and formed the noun mathematics anew, after the pattern of physics and metaphysics, which were inherited from the Greek. In English, the noun mathematics takes singular verb forms. It is often shortened to maths or, in English-speaking North America, math.


The history of mathematics can be seen as an ever-increasing series of abstractions. The first abstraction, which is shared by many animals, was probably that of numbers: the realization that a collection of two apples and a collection of two oranges (for example) have something in common, namely quantity of their members.

As evidenced by tallies found on bone, in addition to recognizing how to count physical objects, prehistoric peoples may have also recognized how to count abstract quantities, like time – days, seasons, years.

Evidence for more complex mathematics does not appear until around 3000 BC, when the Babylonians and Egyptians began using arithmetic, algebra and geometry for taxation and other financial calculations, for building and construction, and for astronomy. The earliest uses of mathematics were in trading, land measurement, painting and weaving patterns and the recording of time.

In Babylonian mathematics elementary arithmetic (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division) first appears in the archaeological record. Numeracy pre-dated writing and numeral systems have been many and diverse, with the first known written numerals created by Egyptians in Middle Kingdom texts such as the Rhind Mathematical Papyrus.

Between 600 and 300 BC the Ancient Greeks began a systematic study of mathematics in its own right with Greek mathematics.

During the Golden Age of Islam, especially during the 9th and 10th centuries, mathematics saw many important innovations building on Greek mathematics: most of them include the contributions from Persian mathematicians such as Al-Khwarismi, Omar Khayyam and Sharaf al-Dīn al-Ṭūsī.

Mathematics has since been greatly extended, and there has been a fruitful interaction between mathematics and science, to the benefit of both. Mathematical discoveries continue to be made today. According to Mikhail B. Sevryuk, in the January 2006 issue of the Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society, "The number of papers and books included in the Mathematical Reviews database since 1940 (the first year of operation of MR) is now more than 1.9 million, and more than 75 thousand items are added to the database each year. The overwhelming majority of works in this ocean contain new mathematical theorems and their proofs."

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Mathematics" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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