# Is math taught in the order in which it was discovered?

## Main Question or Discussion Point

Out of curiosity, is it the case that math is taught in the typical sequence in the order for which it was discovered?

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No, it is definitely not taught in the order of discovery. Though in some sense, students must follow the historical pattern VERY roughly, since you basically need to learn arithmetic before anything else. And there are other issues in math where prerequisite knowledge coincides with the order of historical discovery/invention. However, in general the answer is definitely not.

D H
Staff Emeritus
Out of curiosity, is it the case that math is taught in the typical sequence in the order for which it was discovered?
Of course not. Just look at how you are taught to count very early on: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, ... What's that "0" thingy? The basic concept of counting is very, very old, most likely predating writing. The concept of zero as both a number and as a placeholder is only 1400 years old or so. Next you are taught bits of algebra (1000 years old), then geometry (2300 years old), then more algebra, then calculus (400 years old). Note that the way you are taught calculus is not the way it was originally discovered. Somewhere along the way you are taught to use vectors, which is only 100 years old.

Teaching any of the sciences or technology in the order in which they were discovered just doesn't make sense.

HallsofIvy
Homework Helper
Of course not. Just look at how you are taught to count very early on: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, ... What's that "0" thingy? The basic concept of counting is very, very old, most likely predating writing. The concept of zero as both a number and as a placeholder is only 1400 years old or so. Next you are taught bits of algebra (1000 years old), then geometry (2300 years old), then more algebra, then calculus (400 years old). Note that the way you are taught calculus is not the way it was originally discovered. Somewhere along the way you are taught to use vectors, which is only 100 years old.

Teaching any of the sciences or technology in the order in which they were discovered just doesn't make sense.
Not a big matter but people are typically taught to count starting with "1", NOT "0"!

Not a big matter but people are typically taught to count starting with "1", NOT "0"!
That's not how I typically taught my children. They learned to count to the Apollo launch sequences and worked towards zero!

mathwonk