ever wonder how and why numbers are shaped the way they are? i did. it started me on the path of trying to figure it out.
i started by noticing that the numbers were either completely straight, completely round or a combination of both. i drew the numbers as their simplest shapes (squares (1, 4); triangles (7); circles ((6? 9?) (8)); and the combinations of them (2, 3, 5, 10).
next, i tried to simplify them even further into circles and lines (see red blue drawing). from there, it dawned on me that numbers were probably originally made from the most abundant materials “cave women” had at hand – sticks and stones.
the concept of number is not so simple. it involves understanding that each written “number” is representing the addition of one. the easiest way to comprehend this would be to have each written number include in its body, the actual number of objects the written form was supposed to represent.
thus, looking at the third drawing, one is represented using one stick; two, by laying the stick on its side and adding a stone to it; three, by adding a stone to the other side of that stick; four, by adding another stick to the place where the one originally was; five, adding another stick above the top stone; six, removing the top stick and stone and surrounding the bottom stone with sticks, etc. i wonder if there was any special notice of 5 fingers on each hand, 10 fingers, 10 toes, etc. the romans seemed to have taken note of this in their V and X notations.
after coming up with this theory of the origin of numbers, i searched to see if anyone else had come up with it. i didn’t find and evidence of this. i did however find this article which i found illuminating: the history of numbers.
my cousin, a math teacher for many years, thought it was quite fascinating. i welcome other comments, questions, criticisms or … jokes.