N is for Natural Numbers

| May 3, 2014

I am not a math fan but I’m trying to stay positive in the face of an upcoming statistics final. Therefore…N is for Natural Numbers.

Natural numbers can be described as nominal or ordinal.  They are used for counting and ordering. This is an interesting intersection of mathematics and linguistic needs, the concept of nominal and ordinal seems (at least to me) to have grown out of mathematical concepts and the basic needs of “there are 3 loaves of bread”.

No one can agree on if zero should be included in the natural numbers. Most college textbooks say that the natural numbers are positive integers {12,3…} but some say natural numbers are non-negative integers {0,1,2,3…}.

As I read about the history of the natural numbers evolution I was pleasantly surprised/ slightly alarmed at how interesting I found the subject. In the beginning the most primitive method of representing natural numbers were to put down a dot for each object and then striking out the dot later. The Egyptians had hieroglyphs for 1-10, the beginning of numerical abstraction.  The Babylonians used a zero digit.  The Olmec and Maya civilizations used zero as a separate number but this did not spread until the modern usage of zero in India in 628. Roman numerals do not have a symbol for zero. Greek philosophers who are credited with the abstraction of numbers, Pythagoras and Archimedes, did not consider 1 to be a number and believed that 2 was the smallest number.