Talk:History of mathematical notation

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WikiProject Mathematics (Rated B-class, Top-priority)
WikiProject Mathematics
This article is within the scope of WikiProject Mathematics, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of Mathematics on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
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 Field: History of mathematics (historical)


"History of writing numbers" and "History of mathematical notation" are about two distinct subjects. Although both are short and mention tally sticks and are therefore tempting to merge, that would discourage expanding either of them. "History of writing numbers" is based largely on Ifrah's book which is not about mathematics. It is about ancient and pre-historic number writing. There is a lot more to be said on the subject of how writing numbers began that has nothing to do with mathematics. "How writing ancient numbers began" would be more descriptive, but people searching for that would probably not use "began" as a search word and would probably use "history" and exclude "mathematics" and therefore fail to find it.

"History of mathematical notation" is about mathematical notation and is a huge subject considering how many branches of mathematics there are. Notations used in differential equations, vectors, functions, transforms, tensors, etc. have not even been mentioned but eventually will be if they are not mixed together with tally sticks and cuneiform.

Merging mathematical notation with ancient history because they both involve numbers would be like merging telephone history with electric stoves because they both use electricity.

Putting "mathematics" in the subject of ancient numbers would stop most people from finding "History of writing numbers". If you merge, I will have to move the ancient numbers stuff to a new subject heading like "Pre-cuneiform writing" and leave to up to math buffs to remove the pre-Euclid material from the mathematical notation page where it does not belong.

Let the math buffs do the math and the ancient history buffs do the ancient history. Greensburger 01:30, 2 September 2006 (UTC)

I completely agree. I would prefer that History of writing numbers be merged with Numeral system, for which I have requested a page move to History of numbers or some better title that someone comes up with. Davilla 07:54, 5 September 2006 (UTC)

If this article is expanded to become more comprehensive, from the Rhind Papyrus through writing systems that are not yet fully accepted as the description here is being typed, from cultural differences in separation (every third power of 10 or every fourth power of 10) to the highly technical as mentioned above and scores if not hundreds of other possibilities, will take lifetimes to complete, take more space than any other article and be almost completely useless. There are currently only 8 sections with no subsections.

I suggest that the article be given time to develop much further before any decisions regarding merging are made.

JimCubb 21:05, 29 September 2006 (UTC)


The article makes it sound as if the symbol for zero was do to the mesopotiamians. My understanding is it comes from india. While this may splitting hairs, is there any reason to say mesopotamians instead of babylonians. Thenub314 00:11, 1 October 2006 (UTC)

The source I used (A History of Mathematics by Carl Boyer said it came from the Mesopotamians. The Babylonians were a specific civilization in Mesopotamia, but nothing I found was more specific than Mesopotamians. To say Babylonians would suggest we knew that for sure. If someone can find a reference that says Babylonians, we should say so, but otherwise we should stick to the more general term.P.L.A.R. 02:53, 1 October 2006 (UTC)
Interesting, my source was David Boyer's history of math text book. I think Mesopotamians are probably the best you can say for the notation. So that is probably the term to use here. But I should check out where 0 comes from more carefully. Thenub314 12:54, 4 October 2006 (UTC)
Natural_number#History_of_natural_numbers_and_the_status_of_zero Has a nice descritiption. It seems mesopotamians got most of the way there. India got all the way, and had the benefit of handing it down. Well, learn something new every day. Thenub314 13:02, 4 October 2006 (UTC)

Contradiction re: π[edit]

The pre-calculus and Euler sections contradict each other; the former claims Euler never used π, only p, the latter says he was one of the first to use π. Please untangle....--Natcase 04:20, 14 January 2007 (UTC)

Zenzizenzizenzic and modern notation for a power[edit]

Zenzizenzizenzic is an old name for the eighth power of a number. Acording to wirdwords they had names for the square, cube, zenzizenzic (forth power), surfolide? (fifth), zenzicube (sixth) and Zenzizenzizenzic. This posed the question of who invented our notation and when? --Salix alba (talk) 00:08, 7 March 2007 (UTC)

History of symbol[edit]

Does anyone know the history of the symbol (commonly known as ell)? Similarly, I'm curious about the history of fraktur letters used as distinct symbols in mathematical notation — when and how did that practice arise? hajhouse (talk) 16:55, 26 November 2007 (UTC)

Resulted Number[edit]

The resulted number was put that it was 3.096262735*10^78, but the actual number is 3096262734705922696989985973238545979867854322495988286391115713658237500000000, wasn't sure if it was appropriate to put the full number so I just added the word "approximately". --Zurtex (talk) 16:47, 5 June 2008 (UTC)

My sandbox version[edit]

I'm about to start work on my sandbox version of this article . I've mentioned some ideas on the talk page of that article. Please feel free to contribute to the discussion there. Thanks. MP (talkcontribs) 18:07, 21 October 2008 (UTC)

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