Most of you probably think arithmetic is easy. All you computer programmers and tenured professors out there can add,subtract, multiply, and divide in your sleep, and you scoff at people who can't make change quickly in their head. Certainly, our nation's public schools think arithmetic is easy. They require elementary school teachers to have hardly any math background at all. And yet our elementary school students are using math technology 50,000 years in the making.
How Mathematics Happened by Peter Rudman explores in depth why and how civilized man came to depend on math. He focuses on the early years, beginning well before writing was invented, and giving an intriguing account of the birth of the science. I am in the process of reading it and it is truly fascinating. This isn't the first early math history I have read, but it is by far the most involved. Check it out. You'll never underestimate the power of the third r again.