Math Tutorial 1.1 - Numbering Systems, a Historical View

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There are 6 lessons in this math tutorial covering Numbering Systems, a Historical View. The tutorial starts with an introduction to Numbering Systems, a Historical View and is then followed with a list of the separate lessons, the tutorial is designed to be read in order but you can skip to a specific lesson or return to recover a specific math lesson as required to build your math knowledge of Numbering Systems, a Historical View. you can access all the lessons from this tutorial below.

In this Math tutorial, you will learn:

  • What are numbers? Where did humans begin using them?
  • What are the numbering systems ancient civilizations used to count things?
  • What are the symbols used to represent numbers in each of the numbering systems?
  • What are the two numbering systems in use today? What are they mostly used for?
  • How to convert numbers from one system into another?
  • How to express big numbers as Roman numerals?


In historic times, people were not aware of numbers so they could not count objects around them. In fact the concept of numbers only appeared a few thousand years ago, when developments in interpersonal relationship made people aware of the importance of identifying small amounts of objects around and compare them in a structured index (quantified numbers). Can you imagine what life would be like without numbers? Did you know that researchers have identified isolated people in remote lands and islands that were barely able to count up to six. For example, a mother in an indigenous tribe in Australia, during an interview said, "I have three children" when she actually had four children. The reason for this was that she didn't know how to express the number four so used the word three to represent three items and more than three items. Another example: members of a remote tribe in Amazon forest were barely able to count up to six but not more than six. Only the most knowledgeable people of that tribe were able to count up to eight. These two examples highlight how confusion could occur when trying to communicate quantities, just think, how would you ask for 10 apples! Numbers are part of our everyday lives and simplify our understanding of information, communication, quality, control and many other factors.

So, what are numbers? We can define numbers as mathematical objects used to count, measure and label things. The first numbers have very strange names. The number 1 in an ancient language was associated with the word "moon", the number 2 with "eyes" and so on. The process of creating and developing numbering systems was very long and different civilizations developed independent numbering systems, some of which we will discuss in the following paragraphs.

Please select a specific "Numbering Systems, a Historical View" lesson from the table below, review the video tutorial, print the revision notes or use the practice question to improve your knowledge of this math topic.

Arithmetic Learning Material
Tutorial IDMath Tutorial TitleTutorialVideo
1.1Numbering Systems, a Historical View
Lesson IDMath Lesson TitleLessonVideo
1.1.1Egyptian Numerals
1.1.2Babylonian Numerals
1.1.3Mayan Numerals
1.1.4Roman Numerals
1.1.5Hindu-Arabic Numerals
1.1.6Classes and Placeholders

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  3. Arithmetic Revision Notes: Numbering Systems, a Historical View. Print the notes so you can revise the key points covered in the math tutorial for Numbering Systems, a Historical View
  4. Arithmetic Practice Questions: Numbering Systems, a Historical View. Test and improve your knowledge of Numbering Systems, a Historical View with example questins and answers
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  6. Continuing learning arithmetic - read our next math tutorial: Number Sets, Positive and Negative Numbers and Number Axis

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