Where would we be without numbers? Those allergic to mathematics would no doubt shout a loud “Hooray, let’s abolish numbers, no more times tables, let’s just use our fingers.” But even those who struggle with basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, not to mention the more complicated realms of mathematics are confronted with numbers every day. Numbers rule our lives. Just think of your shopping list. How would you write down 3 litres of milk? Of course you could just write III. However, what if you want 10 cartons of yoghurt or 100 grams of bacon? Then it becomes unwieldy and we would have to think of something shorter. Perhaps an X for 10 or a C for 100. But didn’t the Romans think of that? And don’t most of us find Roman numerals confusing? Perhaps we’re better off sticking to what are conventionally called Arabic numerals. These are the 10 digits: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 said to have been invented by Indian mathematicians around AD 500. So if Indians invented them why are they called Arabic numerals? Because the system was first introduced to Western Europe via Arabia in around AD 1200. This innovative method, which also involved the decimal system, is considered to have been a major breakthrough in the advancement of mathematics. But numbers are far more than mere mathematics. They also communicate a host of simple facts: house numbers, telephone numbers, distances, depths, heights, weights, and and… Where would we be without them?

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