The Shape of Numbers

Arabic Numbers















Have you ever wondered why numbers are the shape they are?

In the western or occidental world, the numbers are known as Arabic numbers after the great Arabic trading empire from which they were originally borrowed. However in the Arabic Empire the numbers were originally known as Hindu numbers.

Although the concept of numbers goes far back into history, traders needed the ability to commit the concept in writing  for both commercial and arithmetical purposes. The Hindu Empire in India being one of the great early historic trading empires developed a series of symbols based on angles. The number of angles in the symbol being the same as the mental mathematical concept of the number. As the Arabic trading grew during the ninth century, traders utilised the Hindu symbols and developed them further into shapes which are recognisable today. Over time, natural handwriting has embellished the symbols with curves but the original angle concept in the shape of the number remains.

The symbol for the number zero is the only symbol to have no angles. The attached diagram shows the angles in Arabic numbers highlighted in red.

2 Responses

  1. Well, I never knew that. It’s quite logical really if you think about it. Maybe a bit difficult if you are adding up.

  2. Very interesting, which again proves that one is never too old to learn something new, at least to them!

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