On the Ancient Egyptian Value for Pi

The Number Warrior

Do a little searching on the Internet, and you’ll find the ancient Egyptian value for $latex pi$ given as 3.16. Do a little more searching and you might get the more exact answer of $latex frac{256}{81}$.

Where did these numbers come from? How did Egyptians discover the procedure for working with circles in the first place? And finally, did the Egyptians really know anything about $latex pi$, or was this a later extrapolation?

The document that gets used to find $latex pi$ is the Rhind Mathematical Papyrus (1650 BC); sometimes it’s known as the A’h-mosè Papyrus depending on if you’re naming it after the person who purchased it or the person who wrote it. I personally prefer the actual title given by the author,

Directions for Attaining Knowledge of All Dark Things

but to be consistent with mathematical historians I’ll call it the RMP, for Rhind Mathematical Papyrus.

The RMP itself is divided into 87 problems. (The…

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