We consider Egyptian mathematics from a postmodern perspective, by which we mean suspending judgement as to strict correctness in order to appreciate the genuine mathematical insights which they did have in the context in which they were working. In particular we show that the skill which the Egyptians possessed of obtaining the general case from a specific numerical example suggests a complete solution to the well-known, but hitherto not completely resolved, question of how the volume of the truncated pyramid given in Problem 14 of the Moscow papyrus was derived. We also point out some details in Problem 48 of the Rhind papyrus, on the area of the circle, which have previously gone unnoticed. Finally, since many of their mathematical insights have long been forgotten, and fall within the modern school syllabus, we draw some important lessons for contemporary mathematics education.
Paul M.E. Shutler has written an article called The problem of the pyramid or Egyptian mathematics from a postmodern perspective. The article was published in the latest issue of International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology. Here is the abstract of Shutler’s article: