One of the earliest known examples of math homework


27 Responses to “One of the earliest known examples of math homework”

  1. chellberty says:

    can anyone spot the doodles among the cuneiform?

  2. There must have been a previous problem that established how big a granary is. The way the problem is stated on the tablet I can’t see how there’s enough information to solve it.

    Of course, even with that information I don’t think I could solve it using the methods they expect. I suck at sexagesimal  long division. Cinch in base ten though

  3. flowergardenslayer says:

    Very cool!  Maggie finds the neatest stuff to post!

  4. Brainspore says:

    “Please be sure to use a No. 2 stylus.”

  5. Teirhan says:

    you ruined mine.  Thanks, maggie!

  6. CaptainK says:

    And as Jimmy Buffet would say: Math still suks!

  7. John Ohno says:

    I’ve seen some tablets with math problems on them. They pop up whenever it’s the Yale Babylonian collection’s turn to put things in the display cases at the Sterling. Maybe next time I’ll take a photograph.

  8. ibuyufo says:

    Marvin Powell commented famously that it was, “written by a bungler who did not know the front from the back of his tablet, did not know the difference between standard numerical notation and area notation, and succeeded in making half a dozen writing errors in as many lines.”

    Mr. Powell, it’s easy for you to say since you’ve never inscribed anything on a stone tablet… the iPad of old days.

  9. Matt Roberts says:

    Only a week ago it was explained to us why it is silly to draw conclusions like this from incomplete information.  There are millions of explanations for that translation, claiming it is “maths homework” is just a, probably incorrect, guess.

  10. Lobster says:

    Show your work!

  11. liquidzoot says:

    Some poor Sumerian kid’s secret fear that future archeologists will find their old homework and think they were stupid just came true.

  12. Macreena Doyle says:

    Dr. Melville spells his name with three l’s, not four…but thanks for the mention!

  13. CommieNeko says:

    Zuul ate my tablet…

  14. anharmyenone says:

    I remember that episode of Superbook.

  15. Arcanafex says:

    Yup. There goes my next week! Weeee!

  16. pat anderson says:

    OK, now I have to look up Sumerian sexagesimal cuneiform.

  17. priscella ahlers says:

    It’s stuff like this that makes me love archaeology. Turns out, we can trace the concept of math homework back to at least 2300 B.C.E., in ancient Mesopotamia.

    Nice !

  18. sigmundf says:

    One of the best introductions to Mesopotamian Mathematics is Eleanor Robson’s Mathematics in Ancient Iraq:
    You can find photographs of most of the tablets here:

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