Numbers are essential in the world we live in. Numbers are used within currency, in understanding time, distance and speed; without our number system, we would not have a way of trading, arriving on time to work or lectures, knowing how many miles of fuel we have left in or car or speed limits on motorways. Within societies where numbers are not necessary would be societies without these structures for example in an Amazonian tribe they only have the words for 1 and 2 and a word for anything more than that as they do not require the complex system which we use.
During an input, we explored creating our own number system. The number system we created was based upon our own base ten system. Something that came up during the input was that other groups had not created a symbol for zero therefore they would be presented with problems as they developed their number system. Binary was addressed which is a base 2 system which is what our technical devises use and looked at base 6 and 12 systems. We also considered the base twenty system of Yan Tan Tethera. This system I found interesting as it was one that I would easily understand unlike the other base systems that we looked into, I feel I found this easier to understand as it was most similar to our system.
Looking to our base ten number system I discovered it is derived from the Hindu- Arabic numerals which also used a set of ten symbols which originate from the 6th century and were brought to Europe from the publications of middle eastern mathematicians. From this I also found a video which explains why x is the symbol we use to represent the unknown. It goes back to the history of Algebra and its beginnings in Arabic mathematics and made its way to Europe (Spain) in the 11th century. In Arabic, the phrase (the unknown thing) they used could not be translated into Spanish due to the different phonic systems as Spanish has not sound like ‘SH’. The translators then had to borrow the sound from the Greek language ‘CK’ which is written as X.

I found this intriguing as we are never told the history behind our mathematic systems. We are taught the origin of our language but never of the mathematical language. Looking into the different number systems it has given me a great appreciation that we use a base 10 system as the other systems are so complex. It also allowed me to look at why we need number and how much we use it on a day to day basis even when we don’t realise.


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