Algebra PTSD

Nadia’s Bolivian Mathematics Textbook

Last week we toured the Silk Road City of Samarkand with my fellow CEESA directors and made a stop at Mirzo Ulugbek Observatory. He is the 15th-century ruler of Samarkand and the grandson of the great Tamerlane. His true passion was astronomy, mathematics, and learning. This was not good for his reign, he eventually was defeated in battle by his son and on his way to exile in Mecca, was beheaded by traitors. His lack of focus on military campaigns and setting religious leaders against him was his downfall. There is a statue of Ulugbek at the archeological site that reminded my wife, Nadia of her mathematics book, from her high school days in Bolivia (above and below).

One of the founders of algebra (Al-Gabr) was Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī who is featured on the cover of the Bolivian textbook. He was not Arabic, but Persian and was from the region that is around present-day Khiva. It is still called “Khwarazm” and good old Muhammad had the region in his name (Al-Juarismi – The Khivan). We had a big laugh that Nadia, who struggled with algebra and mathematics as a student, ended up moving to the land of the founders of algebra and higher mathematics, Uzbekistan! I think this is good therapy for her!

Nadia at the Amir Temur Mausoleum

We also visited the mausoleum of Tamerlane (Amir Temur). Samarkand was his capital and the guy had an eye for architectural design. The restored madrassas, mosques and other public buildings are stunning with their geometric blue tiles. We finished our day in Samarkand with our friend, Abdullahad who took us out for plov and gave us a tour of his carpet factory.

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