I-MAG STS Corporation
The Chinese Remainder Theorem is a result in number theory with a long and
colorful history. Oddly enough, it has application in California's education crisis.
Suppose you wished to know, for no apparently useful reason, what number had a
remainder of 2 when divided by 3; a remainder of 3 when divided by 4 and a
remainder of 1 when divided by 5. We'll give the workings in a moment, but for our
less patient readers the answer is 71. This can also be described as 11 modulo 60,
so other answers are 131, 191, 251 ...
As nearly as we can determine, this problem and a solution method were first
published as 孫子算經 (The Mathematical Classic). We were originally
attracted to it because of a mis-translation of the author's name: we thought it was
by the esteemed military theorist Sun Tzu. Sadly, there are almost no details about
either the mathematician or the general. We are not able to confidently give a date
closer than somewhere between the third and fifth century to the book. The
material was republished in China in 1247, but in the interim the great Indian
mathematicians Aryabhata (6th century) and Brahmagupta (7th century) as well
as that Italian lover of rabbits, Leonardo Pisano Bigollo (1170? - 1250?), more
commonly known as Fibonacci, also worked on the problem.