Square Root
The square
root of a given number is the value that, when multiplied by itself, yields the
given number. Square roots are easy to find using the proper button on a
calculator, but not so easy when it comes to finding it by hand. In the notebook,
John A has written down an algorithm to calculate the square root of a number
by hand. The algorithm is
copied directly from Nicholas Pike’s A
New and Complete System of Arithmetick, Composed for
the Use of the Citizens of the United States. Over several numerical
examples, John A puts into play the algorithm to extract the square root. Pike
has some worked examples and other examples where only the answer is given.
Macdonald worked on finding the square roots of a few of the numbers where only
the answer was given and a few where presumably his teacher had set the problem
and no answer was given.
Here are
some of Macdonald’s square root problems for whole numbers and decimal
fractions. One cannot be solved using a typical pocket calculator because there
are too many digits. Another cannot be found exactly; Macdonald obtained it to
three decimal places.
Number 
Square Root 
10342656 

5499025 

964.5192360241 

0.000729 

0.04209 

Other
square root problems involved fractions. Once again, one cannot be found
exactly; Macdonald obtained it to four decimal places.
Number 
Square Root 
144/15129 

2793/8208 

42
1/4 

17
3/8 
