Name: Richard C.
How did our 'Arabic' numerals evolve? That is, I
understand that a 2
was once represented as the horns of an animal and evolved into the 2
we know and love today. A 3 was supposedly three horizontal hash
marks that became slurred into our modern day 3. These things I
recall from my high school math teacher. I am currently teaching
basic and advanced math classes to adults and I thought this bit of
trivia might create interest.
I do not know exact results, but I do know why "x" and "y" are the
traditional variables of algebra. When algebra was developed, ball-point
pens and pencils were not yet developed. Most writing was done with quills
dipped in ink wells. Making curved lines required skill and time. The
easiest letters to make that could be easily distinguished from numbers were
x and y. Both required only two straight strokes. I expect this is similar
to why the number symbols developed as they did. Numbers needed to be
fairly easy to write AND read at the time they were developed.
Dr. Ken Mellendorf
Illinois Central College
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Update: June 2012