Math conference to be held in Phnom Penh


Announcement: International Conference on Role of Zero in the History of Mathematics to be held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

We are excited to announce the Amir D. Aczel Foundations support for an international conference on Zero and its Role in the History of Mathematics to be held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, March 18-20. The conference is organized by the Department of Mathematics of the Royal University of Phnom Penh, in collaboration with the Cambodian Mathematics Association, Cambodian Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports and the Cambodian Ministry of Culture and Arts.

The idea for the conference grew out of Amir D. Aczel’s search for the ancient Khmer stele, K-127, containing one of the oldest zeros ever discovered. Aczel’s search for K-127 led him to Cambodia, where he rediscovered K-127 in a storehouse in Siem Reap, a short distance from Angkor Wat. The Aczel Foundation recently supported installation of K-127 in the National Museum of Cambodia, where it is now on view.

The March conference will include a formal unveiling of K-127 and reception, talks, workshops and roundtable discussions by renowned international and local experts. Topics will include discussion about zero in history of mathematics, controversy over the recent dating of the Bakhshali manuscript by the Bodleian Library of Oxford, significance of K-127 and its role in answering the question: where did zero come from, relationship between culture and mathematics, the future of Cambodian math education, among others.

This conference represents a significant event in the rebuilding of mathematics education in Cambodia. During the murderous reign of the Khmer Rouge, the country’s educational system was dismantled as universities were forced to close. The road to reconstruction is difficult. Currently, Cambodian universities offer education in mathematics to a master’s degree, meaning that advanced students must go outside the country to continue their education.This conference offers an important opportunity to develop and strengthen collaborations between mathematicians inside and outside Cambodia.

The Amir D. Aczel Foundation is proud to be a part of this effort and wish to thank all our donors who have helped us achieve this goal.

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