The Fascinating History of Modern Numbers

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Many people have often questioned why numbers look the way they do. Maybe you thought about it yourself when you got bored sitting there in math class. So in order to help you discover the answer, I have come up with the following explanation after lots research. So today you are going to learn something new. The initial attempts to represent numbers worked a little something like in the image below:

The Sumerians fixed this by creating different symbols with different values.

And this was the way they represented numbers until AbuJa'far Muhammad Ibn Musa Al-Khwariszmi appeared. He was a Persian mathematician, astronomer, and geographer during the Abbasid Caliphate, and also a scholar in the House of Wisdom in Baghdad. He is also considered as the greatest mathematician ever lived. So in order to do Math he had to improve the representation of numbers themselves, so he made these symbols:

Now, you can tell 1, 2 and 3 right away, and maybe you even found 6 and 9 as well, but other than that, the graph looks very different from what we know today. The values of the first numbers were given by their angles like in the image below:

At some point people started shortening one of the arms and putting new ones on the other side. But that actually gives you the wrong value of angles too:

Which was fixed in two ways:

Now we got 1 2 3 and 4, let’s get to the other numbers. To help you understand what is happening I’m going to let you see the invisible line that divides them.

The circle below the lines (imaged below) has the value of five, because it’s like a closed fist. And also when it’s above the line it has value of ten, because raising your fist gets results (you know what I mean).

Now to get from 5 to 7, you add angles from the circle (see the image below):

If you want to get from eight to ten you subtract angles facing down (See image below):

Eventually, the lower part of the eight became closed, making it easier to write. The circle was reserved for zero. Then the zero found a partner to make ten:

But what made five and seven what they are today? In these numbers, the position of the line was still important so it began to be used. But increased the number of the strokes necessary to write the symbols.

To reduce the number of strokes and make it easier to write, the circles gradually began to change. The five got a right angle to distinguish it from six, if you ever wondered why some people put this thing on seven, it's to honor what's left of the angles. But the circle in seven wasn't so lucky.



This post was written by Umer Abrar. To contact the author of this post, write to or add/follow him on facebook :

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