Number System Advantages, Disadvantages
Date: 01/24/2001 at 10:10:13 From: Milton Mui Subject: Advantages and disadvantages of present number system Hi Dr.Math, I've a question to ask you for my maths project. I want to know the advantages and disadvantages of the present number system. With regards, Milton
Date: 01/24/2001 at 12:21:11 From: Doctor Peterson Subject: Re: Advantages and disadvantages of present number system Hi, Milton. This is a wide-open question where you can think of many different things to discuss in your paper. I suggest you visit our FAQ page on Roman numerals (which has links on other systems at the bottom), and familiarize yourself with how some other systems work. http://mathforum.org/dr.math/faq/faq.roman.html The advantages of the current system should be obvious if you try doing some math problems in those systems, or just try to write large numbers; but the disadvantages may not be so obvious. Our number system has several features that distinguish it from other possible systems: the place value concept, base 10 in particular, the specific set of symbols we have, the way we put those symbols together (in a row, using a decimal point), and so on. I don't think you can find any disadvantages in the use of place value, but you might be able to see better choices than 10 for the base; look into the Babylonian number system, which was partly based on 60, to see how "decimals" work better that way. In fact, if we used base 60, or perhaps 12, and therefore used that for the metric system as well, we could eliminate one of the big problems with the metric system, the fact that it doesn't handle common fractions well. Maybe you can come up with an alternative set of symbols (especially if you choose a larger base) that would be easier to learn than ours. If you have ever seen the computer game Riven, it turns out that they use a base 25 system of numbers with a very consistent system of digit symbols. You might even want to ask some young children what problems they're having in learning to write numbers, to see if a different system might help. One disadvantage that led to early rejection of Arabic numerals in Europe was that numbers could be more easily forged than in Roman numerals - it was easier to change 0 to 6 or 9 than to change V to X. That's why we have to write out numbers on checks - a different system might eliminate that problem. This can be a fascinating idea to think about, so enjoy the experience of looking at our number system as an outsider deciding which system to use! - Doctor Peterson, The Math Forum http://mathforum.org/dr.math/
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