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Arabic numerals

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KaraCleary
875406.  Wed Jan 04, 2012 4:56 pm Reply with quote

Despite the misnomer confusing many people, arabic numerals (1,2,3,4,5 etc.) originate in India. They were first introduced to the west in 1202 by the well-known Fibonacci. However the system had been adopted by the Islamic world and first came into contact with westerners there, hence the name. This was a period of great suspicion of Islam by the clergy, who did their level best to prevent its use.

India is proud of its legacy - and to this day children have to learn their times tables up to 20*20, twice as high as in most European schools.


Source: Alex's Adventures in Numberland

 
CB27
875416.  Wed Jan 04, 2012 5:15 pm Reply with quote

I always found the idea of learning "times tables" as ridiculously archaic and unhelpful, as it seems to force children to remember a static image of a question and answer, rather than learn to calculate the answer in their head.

I'm so happy some of my junior school education was in Eilat in the 70s and early 80s, because they were introducing new methods of teaching and I know that at age 10 I and others in my class were able to do mental calculations which I see many adults struggling with. It sounds horribly pretentious, but throughout my secondary school education in London, though I was always in the top class for maths, I was constantly bored because it felt like they were so far behind everything I was taught.

 
CB27
875420.  Wed Jan 04, 2012 5:31 pm Reply with quote

Going back to Arabic Numerals, Fibonacci was not the first to introduce them to Europe in 1202, they were already introduced in the 10th century, though not adopted widely.

Pope Sylvester II (a very cool cat indeed) actively promoted these numerals at the turn of the millennium, as well as introducing many other ideas he'd learned from Arabic texts.

As for the numbers themselves, though they are often called Arabic Numberals, they do come from India originally and came to Europe through North Africa, not the Middle East. It was the North African Muslims in Libya and Morocco who introduced these numbers to European traders, which then made their way to European scholars. Because this was far from the Middle East, and seemed to have no connection to India, the Europeans assumed they were Arabic.

As for Arab culture, the numbers they passed to us were called Hindu Numerals, whereas the numbers used in Arabic are called Hindi Numerals and are slightly different to the ones we use.

 
dr.bob
875523.  Thu Jan 05, 2012 5:04 am Reply with quote

CB27 wrote:
I always found the idea of learning "times tables" as ridiculously archaic and unhelpful, as it seems to force children to remember a static image of a question and answer, rather than learn to calculate the answer in their head.


How do you "calculate" the answer to a multiplication in your head without learning at least the times tables of the numbers 1-9?

Or did they simply learn log tables at your school? :)

 
KaraCleary
875603.  Thu Jan 05, 2012 1:07 pm Reply with quote

Do you have a source to reference for the information? I should quite like to see it - however it was my mistake to cite Liber Abaci as the first introduction of the numerals to Europe. I'm afraid that is down to my memory; it was indeed simply promoting the numerals already introduced.

But I do know that the church was extremely suspicious of all things Arabic before, during and even long after the first crusade in 1096. It would be most curious to learn it was the Pope who promoted them.

 
tetsabb
875618.  Thu Jan 05, 2012 2:04 pm Reply with quote

KaraCleary wrote
Quote:
This was a period of great suspicion of Islam by the clergy,


Unlike these enlightened tiimes.

 
KaraCleary
875627.  Thu Jan 05, 2012 4:06 pm Reply with quote

Quote:
Unlike these enlightened tiimes.


I did not think that was particularly naive of me. Institutional racism of any kind is considered, rightly so, scandalous. Although the church is (to the best of my knowledge) inherently hypocritical...

 
tetsabb
875653.  Thu Jan 05, 2012 6:55 pm Reply with quote

Just me being snarky. You'll get used to my comments
:-)

 
'yorz
875657.  Thu Jan 05, 2012 7:05 pm Reply with quote

tets snarky? I can't tell the difference...

 
tetsabb
875666.  Thu Jan 05, 2012 7:27 pm Reply with quote

I try to be good, honest

 
CB27
875675.  Thu Jan 05, 2012 7:59 pm Reply with quote

Some of the information is from a book called "The Abacus and the Cross" by Nancy Marie Brown (she's written some interesting books), other information from various other sources.

We have to remember that the Church and politics of Europe around the turn of the Millenium were a little more complicated than we often give them credit.

 
KaraCleary
875846.  Fri Jan 06, 2012 11:07 am Reply with quote

tetsabb wrote:
Just me being snarky. You'll get used to my comments
:-)

Interesting! That fills me with a sense of anticipation! ;-)


I think politics in many ages were more complex than we believe. However there is etymological and legal evidence (in the form of prohibitions, for example in Florence) that in this case aforementioned wary approach to 'Arabic' concepts was very real.

 
Awitt
921208.  Tue Jul 03, 2012 4:41 am Reply with quote

I worked in a school with Arabic books in the library, as that was the main population of the school, and remember having to ask those who knew the language what the Arabic numbers were, so i could catalogue the books!

 

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