Tag Archives: number history


This was a very early blog comment post on another blog. It has been transferred to this blog.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

In answer to the question, "If you woke up tomorrow and there was no such thing as numbers, what would your day be like?"

There were, in the past, times when numbers weren't in existence. They're something humans have made up to try to explain things we see.

Through history, there have been many ways of writing numbers. Our numbers are known as Hindu-Arabic because of the influence of those two systems on us. They replaced Roman numerals that were based on fives as in the fingers and thumbs on our hands.

Look at the sum below and see how hard it would be to do maths....

Roman Numerals


Hindu-Arabic Numerals

769 + 344 = 1113

Which would you prefer to use?

Did you know computers use a number system called binary to work?

Binary only uses 1 and 0. A 1 tells the computer to turn something on and a 0 off. By turning on or off many tiny “switches” in a processor, the computer is able to operate. No numbers, no computers.

Here is 0 to 10 in binary coding…

0,  1,  10,  11,  100,  101,  110,  111,  1000,  1001, 1010

Numbers are a fascinating part of our lives. They are much more a part of our everyday life than we might realise and would affect many things you might not realise.

Remember to set your alarm so you can be up in time for school tomorrow. Wait, clocks use numbers. Have a shower, no, computers and machines control the delivery of water and electricity. Maybe we could walk to school because buses and cars aren’t running. Wait, the buildings have gone because we didn’t have the numbers to help build them. We can go into the simple wooden shelter and sit on the ground then pick up our books. No, computers and machines involved again…

Maybe I should just make a spear and settle around a fire near my rough shelter made from branches and animal skins. When the sun rises, I’ll go hunting while the family searches for water and wild grains to make rough bread. For games, my children can practise throwing spears or learn how to cut animal skins into clothing.

We could survive without numbers but the world would be a very different place for us.