The Pythagorean Theorem

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We often think that mathematics consists of strict rules and conventions that need to be adhered to, as well as facts and procedures that need to be memorized. Sure, all that is part of the mathematics curriculum, but is that all mathematics is? Of course not. Pythagoras’s Theorem is perhaps the most famous theorem in the math curriculum. Most of you know what the Pythagorean Theorem is. It’s the formula that you use to calculate the sides of a right-angled triangle.

“The square of the hypotenuse of a right triangle is equal to the sum of the squares on the other two sides.”

The Pythagorean Theorem was one of my favourites in math class and it is certainly one of the most beautiful and elegant theorems in the mathematical world.

Contrary to popular perception, the Greek mathematician Pythagoras himself did not invent the Theorem. There’s solid evidence that the Babylonians discovered it 1000 years before Pythagoras was born.

So how did the theorem get named after Pythagoras?

It is generally agreed among historians that Pythagoras was the first mathematician. He was born in Samos, Ionia, in 569 BC, and died around 475 BC.

While he published no books, he founded a school called the Semicircle of Pythagoras that saw mathematics as part science and part religion. Knowledge was passed via word of mouth under a veil of secrecy.

The school practiced collectivism, which could explain why the theorem is called Pythagorean, and leads us to theorize that its eventual formulation was possibly a collective effort.

For more fascinating facts about the Pythagorean Theorem, visit

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