Signs for Unit Fractions


home | courses | topics | theorems | starters | worksheets | timeline | KS3 | KS4 | KS5


To learn about what Unit Fractions are, click on the link. You also need to know a bit about the Eye of Horus before you can understand about these fractions.

In hieroglyphic script the fraction was given by placing a symbol for ro over an integer. Since ro is at the same time a smallest unit for grain -- a mouthful of grain, the symbol is a mouth.

For example, the fraction 1/12 in hieroglyphic is which uses the symbol for 10 and two strokes for the integer 2.

In hieratic this would be

where the symbol for 10 has become angular. The position is read from right to left. Since the position of the dot does not cover the whole fraction, care has to be taken in reading hieratic so that should be read as 1/12 and not 1/10 + 2.

The special hieroglyph for 2/3 is

or sometimes

Some tasks for you:

  1. Try to express various fractions by using the above principles.
  2. Try to express 1/2 as a sum of smaller unit fractions, but don't forget, you can't repeat any fraction in the sum!
  3. Try the same with: 1/4, 1/5, 1/16.



Topics on Egyptian mathematics

Egyptian gods and mathematics

Egyptian numerals

Rhynd and Moscow Papiri

Unit Fractions

Eye of Horus Fractions

Dyadic multiplication

An Egyptian scribe from the Fourth Dynasty. The word scribe is applied to clerks, copyists and, more importantly to the class of bureaucratic officials on whom the whole Egyptian system was based. They were an elite who passed their profession from father to son. Scribes were very powerful, or so we think now, as the popularity of the scribe statues overtakes popularity of any other statues apart from god forms.


artefacts | numerals | concepts | people | places | pythagoreans | egyptians | babylonians


Search WWW Search


Acknowledgements | Copyright | Contact | Mission Statement | Tell a friend about this site