Associated Topics || Dr. Math Home || Search Dr. Math

### Current Number System

```
Date: 6/13/96 at 9:53:11
From: dhautree
Subject: Current number system

Do you think our number system nowadays is sufficient for its uses?
```

```
Date: 7/17/96 at 12:43:10
From: Doctor Patrick
Subject: Re: Current number system

Hi!  That's an interesting question.  I may have a biased point of
view, but I do think our system is sufficient for its uses.

I'm not really sure what exactly is needed to say that a number system
is doing a good job, but I guess that it would have to be able to let
people express the idea of "How many" easily and efficiently so that
everyone using the system could understand what the other people
meant.  It would also have to be able to let us do calculations
without too much trouble.

Can you think of any other things it would have to be able to do?

Our number system does both of the things I thought were important.
We can communicate numbers easily and we can do all kinds of math with
our numbers. One reason for this might be the relative simplicity of
our system--we only use 10 different symbols for counting
(0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8, and 9) and just mix them up to form new numbers.
What do you think would happen if we had to use a different symbol for
every number we wanted to express?  We would need so many different
symbols that no one could *ever* learn them all.  We only have to
learn a few, and to learn how to put them together, which makes our
number system easy to learn, understand, and communicate.

What other reasons can you think of as for why our system works well
(or why it doesn't, if you think it need some improvement)?

-Doctor Patrick,  The Math Forum
Check out our web site!  http://mathforum.org/dr.math/
```
Associated Topics: