The Back Page: My Favorite Lesson: Sliding through Logarithms

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One of my favorite lessons involves a nostalgic look at the past, in the years BC (Before Calculators). The properties of logarithms are readily reinforced using an ingenious tool from the past—the slide rule. Developed in the seventeenth century by William Oughtred and others, who built on the emerging work on logarithms by John Napier, the slide rule was used to multiply, divide, and find square roots and cube roots, among other arithmetic operations. Before the advent of the pocket calculator, it was the most commonly used calculation tool in science and engineering.


Edited by Jennifer Wexler,, New Trier High School, Winnetka, IL

Contributor Notes

William J. Wolbert,, retired after thirty-seven years of teaching high school mathematics at North Clarion School in Tionesta, Pennsylvania, and at Clarion University in Clarion.

(Corresponding author is Wolbert
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