Math Tutorial 1.1 - Numbering Systems, a Historical View

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This tutorial "Numbering Systems, a Historical View" is part of our comprehensive math tutorials for Arithmetic. Each tutorial includes a full written tutorial, a video tutorial, revision notes, practice questions with answers and supporting Arithmetic calculators to help you check your own calculations. On this page, you can read the full math tutorial for Numbering Systems, a Historical View. You can also access the supporting material from the menu below.

In this Math tutorial, you will learn:

  • What are numbers? Where did humans begin using them?
  • What are the numbering systems ancient civilizations used to count things?
  • What are the symbols used to represent numbers in each of the numbering systems?
  • What are the two numbering systems in use today? What are they mostly used for?
  • How to convert numbers from one system into another?
  • How to express big numbers as Roman numerals?

Introduction

In historic times, people were not aware of numbers so they could not count objects around them. In fact the concept of numbers only appeared a few thousand years ago, when developments in interpersonal relationship made people aware of the importance of identifying small amounts of objects around and compare them in a structured index (quantified numbers). Can you imagine what life would be like without numbers? Did you know that researchers have identified isolated people in remote lands and islands that were barely able to count up to six. For example, a mother in an indigenous tribe in Australia, during an interview said, "I have three children" when she actually had four children. The reason for this was that she didn't know how to express the number four so used the word three to represent three items and more than three items. Another example: members of a remote tribe in Amazon forest were barely able to count up to six but not more than six. Only the most knowledgeable people of that tribe were able to count up to eight. These two examples highlight how confusion could occur when trying to communicate quantities, just think, how would you ask for 10 apples! Numbers are part of our everyday lives and simplify our understanding of information, communication, quality, control and many other factors.

So, what are numbers? We can define numbers as mathematical objects used to count, measure and label things. The first numbers have very strange names. The number 1 in an ancient language was associated with the word "moon", the number 2 with "eyes" and so on. The process of creating and developing numbering systems was very long and different civilizations developed independent numbering systems, some of which we will discuss in the following paragraphs.

Please select a specific "Numbering Systems, a Historical View" lesson from the table below, review the video tutorial, print the revision notes or use the practice question to improve your knowledge of this math topic.

Arithmetic Learning Material
Tutorial IDMath Tutorial TitleTutorialVideo
Tutorial
Revision
Notes
Revision
Questions
1.1Numbering Systems, a Historical View
Lesson IDMath Lesson TitleLessonVideo
Lesson
1.1.1Egyptian Numerals
1.1.2Babylonian Numerals
1.1.3Mayan Numerals
1.1.4Roman Numerals
1.1.5Hindu-Arabic Numerals
1.1.6Classes and Placeholders

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Enjoy the "Numbering Systems, a Historical View" math tutorial? People who liked the "Numbering Systems, a Historical View" tutorial found the following resources useful:

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  2. Arithmetic Video tutorial: Numbering Systems, a Historical View. Watch or listen to the Numbering Systems, a Historical View video tutorial, a useful way to help you revise when travelling to and from school/college
  3. Arithmetic Revision Notes: Numbering Systems, a Historical View. Print the notes so you can revise the key points covered in the math tutorial for Numbering Systems, a Historical View
  4. Arithmetic Practice Questions: Numbering Systems, a Historical View. Test and improve your knowledge of Numbering Systems, a Historical View with example questins and answers
  5. Check your calculations for Arithmetic questions with our excellent Arithmetic calculators which contain full equations and calculations clearly displayed line by line. See the Arithmetic Calculators by iCalculator™ below.
  6. Continuing learning arithmetic - read our next math tutorial: Number Sets, Positive and Negative Numbers and Number Axis

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