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SME 430: History of Mathematics 1/19/10

Egyptian Multiplication

This activity is about a new type of algorithm that will help those of you with
problems multiplying numbers. This algorithm is entitled Egyptian
Multiplication. This method was used and developed by the ancient
Egyptians. These were people who migrated from the fertile Sahara region of
Africa. The Egyptians had customs similar to those of the Ethiopians. The
Egyptian civilization was one of the greatest ancient civilizations. They were
well organized and one of the more advanced of the ancient civilizations.
They had calendars, standard weight and measure system and a centralized

Egyptians had an interesting way of doing multiplication. They used addition

to get the answer of a multiplication problem. They only had to memorize
one multiplication table. That table would be the 2 times table. This method
is still used in many rural communities in Ethiopia, Russia, the Arab World,
and the Near East.

The term that we use with Egyptian Multiplication is called Doubling.

Doubling does just what it sounds like. You take one number and either
multiply it by 2 or you add it to itself. This is done repeatedly until you get
the other number. Below is an example of what you need to do using the
problem 18 x 24:



1 24

2 48

4 96

8 192

16 384

You first take either number, the 18 or 24. Here we used the 24. Then set up
a little chart like we have done. Put the number being doubled on the right
hand side. On the left hand side you put the "double number". You keep
putting the corresponding double with the number that was doubled. Once
you get to a double larger than the other number you are multiplying then
SME 430: History of Mathematics 1/19/10

you can stop. Now you have to find the double numbers that add up to the
other number, in our case is 18. The doubles that add up to 18 are 2 and 16.
Take the corresponding numbers and add them together; 48+384=432. That
number is the product of 24 and 18.

Does the order matter?
Do you get the same answer if you switch the numbers?


Use Egyptian multiplication to find

1. 13 x 42
2. 54 x 98
3. 45 x 126
4. 85 x 17

Think about:

Analyze the method to see why it works.

SME 430: History of Mathematics 1/19/10

(Hint: Write 18 x 24 = (2 + 16) x 24

= (2x24) + (16x24)