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Name: Richard C.
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How did our 'Arabic' numerals evolve? That is, I understand that a 2 was once represented as the horns of an animal and evolved into the 2 we know and love today. A 3 was supposedly three horizontal hash marks that became slurred into our modern day 3. These things I recall from my high school math teacher. I am currently teaching basic and advanced math classes to adults and I thought this bit of trivia might create interest.

Rich, I do not know exact results, but I do know why "x" and "y" are the traditional variables of algebra. When algebra was developed, ball-point pens and pencils were not yet developed. Most writing was done with quills dipped in ink wells. Making curved lines required skill and time. The easiest letters to make that could be easily distinguished from numbers were x and y. Both required only two straight strokes. I expect this is similar to why the number symbols developed as they did. Numbers needed to be fairly easy to write AND read at the time they were developed.

Dr. Ken Mellendorf
Physics Instructor
Illinois Central College

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