Marcus du Sautoy uses combinations of peaches and plums and a set of scales, to show how simultaneous equations can be solved. This method didn't appear in the West until the 19th century, but had been in use in China centuries earlier. The Chinese could also work with more complex problems, using their remainder theorem. Marcus uses an example of a woman with a tray of eggs to show how it works.
Use as background to any work on solving simultaneous equations, challenging students to repeat du Sautoy's experiment