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Number Games and Number Rhymes: The Number Rhymes of Metrodorus


by Robert King Atwell 1912

The position of the number rhyme in the history of education has already been discussed. In this chapter it is proposed to give a few translations from the famous Epigrams of Metrodorus, or Metrodoros, to take the Greek form of his name. These will serve to show the nature of the rhyming problem as it first appeared in the early Greek algebra, and may have some educational value in the present search for means to make the introduction to this science more interesting to a certain type of mind. They are confessedly mere puzzles, stated in a form that appeals to the immature youth. They admit of solution by such simple equations as are now quite commonly given in the arithmetic of the eighth grade, although the Greeks, had no such simple means for attacking them. In ancient days they were possibly solved by geometric methods, the unknown quantity being represented by a line. The Arabs would, as the learned Dean Peacock has remarked, have solved them by the Rule of False Position, as would also the medieval writers of Europe. It is quite probable, however, that they were approached through the domain of rhetorical algebra, that early process of algebraic reasoning in which words were used instead of symbols. But whatever the process, they stand as interesting examples of the use of the puzzle in the youth of the race; and as such they raise the question as to whether we should not profit by this race experience in dealing with the youth of to-day.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 13 Number 5, 1912, p. 63-68
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 10181, Date Accessed: 10/18/2017 5:36:58 AM

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