Thursday, November 18, 2010

Number Sense - Arabic Number System

To expand student understanding of where the numbers used in the United States came from.

Most people in the USA are comfortable using the Arabic Numbering system. However, we rarely think about the history of the Arabic Numbering System.

When you teach number sense with your students, you can help celebrate the mathematicians of India and Persia by discussing the history and development of the

Here is a brief history from wikipedia:

"Arabic numerals or Hindu numerals or Hindu-Arabic numerals are the ten digits (0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9). They are descended from the Hindu-Arabic numeral system by Indian mathematicians, by which a sequence of numerals such as "975" is read as a whole number. The Indian numerals were adopted by the Persian mathematicians in India, and passed on to the Arabs further west. From there they were transmitted to Europe in the Middle Ages. The use of Arabic numerals spread around the world through European trade, books and colonialism. Today they are the most common symbolic representation of numbers in the world."

link to the rest of the article.

Important Facts
1. Invented around 500 CE in India, which is why many people call them the Hindu-Arabic Numerals.
2. One of first to use 0(zero), which directly leads to the next fact.
3. It uses a positional notation - This means that it uses ones, tens, hundreds and so on. Most number systems didn't at that time (for example Roman numerals)
4. Europe became aware of the system from On the Calculation with Hindu Numerals by Al-Khwarizmi, a persian Mathematician.
5. Al-Kwarizmi's name was latinized to Algorithmi, which is where the word algorithm comes from.
6. Was adopted in Europe in part because of it's usefulness in managing accounts in commerce and trade.
7. Fibonacci, who was trained in part in Algeria which was at that time part of the Almohad dynasty, popularized Hindu-Arabic Numerals in his book Liber Abaci.

Evolution of the glyphs: link
A Genealogy of Counting Systems: link
Lesson on ancient number systems: link

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