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Mathematical Treasure: Fifteenth Century Division Practice

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University)

“Dura cosa e la partita, or “Division is a difficult thing,” was a common sentiment among mathematical practitioners of the Middle Ages, particularly if they were computing on an abacus. Even when Hindu-Arabic (Indo-Arabic) numerals and their computing algorithms were introduced, the operation was considered difficult. Here, a fifteenth century Italian student practices his division techniques. A modern viewer should carefully examine and try to understand the processes being demonstrated.

These images are obtained through the cooperation of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.

Index to Mathematical Treasures

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University), "Mathematical Treasure: Fifteenth Century Division Practice," Convergence (August 2017)