The designation modern Arabic mathematical notation is used for a mathematical notation based on the Arabic script, especially at pre-university levels of education. Its form is mostly derived from Western notation, but has some notable features that set it apart from its Western counterpart. The most remarkable of those features is the fact that it is written from right to left following the normal direction of the Arabic script. Other differences include the replacement of the Latin alphabet letters for symbols with Arabic letters and the use of Arabic names for functions and relations.
Some features of Arabic mathematical notation
It is written from right to left following the normal direction of the Arabic script. Other differences include the replacement of the Latin alphabet letters for symbols with Arabic letters and the use of Arabic names for functions and relations.
The notation exhibits one of the very few remaining vestiges of non-dotted Arabic scripts, as dots over and under letters (I'jam) are usually omitted.
Letter cursivity (connectedness) of Arabic is also taken advantage of, in a few cases, to define variables using more than one letter. The most widespread example of this kind of usage is the canonical symbol for the radius of a circle نق (Arabic pronunciation: [nɑq]), which is written using the two letters nūn and qāf. When variable names are juxtaposed (as when expressing multiplication) they are written non-cursively.
Arabic mathematical notation in different regions
The notation differs slightly from region to another. In university-level education most regions use the Western notation. The notation mainly differs in numeral system used, and in mathematical symbol used
Numeral systems used in Arabic mathematical notation
There are three numeral systems used in right to left mathematical notation.
It is contested that the usage of Latin x in maths is derived from the first letter of the Arabic word شيء [ʃajʔ(un)] meaning thing. (X was used in old Spanish for the sound /ʃ/). However, according to others there is no historical evidence for this.
^Cajori, Florian. A History of Mathematical Notation. Courier Dover Publications. pp. 382–383. Retrieved 11 October 2012. "Nor is there historical evidence to support the statement found in Noah Webster's Dictionary, under the letter x, to the effect that 'x was used as an abbreviation of Ar. shei (a thing), something, which, in the Middle Ages, was used to designate the unknown, and was then prevailingly transcribed as xei.'"
^Oxford Dictionary, 2nd Edition. "There is no evidence in support of the hypothesis that x is derived ultimately from the mediaeval transliteration xei of shei "thing", used by the Arabs to denote the unknown quantity, or from the compendium for L. res "thing" or radix "root" (resembling a loosely-written x), used by mediaeval mathematicians."