Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Numerals and Counting

At Always Learning some people talked about having had a pattern on numerals on which they did calculations in school because teachers wouldn't let them count on their fingers, and there was a request to bring that here. Can anyone who had a personal system like that describe it?

There was also discussion there of the history of numerals. An earlier post on this blog dealt with ancient counting (aloud, names of numbers: Score! and counting sheep in prehistoric languages) but now the question is about writing numbers down.

A link was brought to this explanation. Some of us were skeptical, and someone's looking into it:

Fun With Numbers (and an illustration from that page):

Pam Sorooshian found this: http://nostalgia.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arabic_numerals/Talk

Google will turn up tons of cool stories. Here are portals to a few:

If you have any theories or favorite stories on numerals, or sites about their history, or personal stories, please deposit those below!


Ria said...

I'd have to draw out how I counted by *points* on the numerals, but I don't remember how I counted 6, 7, 8 or 9.

When I was about fourth grade or so my teacher would spend countless ages (or it seemed at the time) drilling me with flash cards.

I *didn't* get good at saying the answer from memory quickly, I got good at counting the points quickly. lol

Two was counting the two points at the bottom of it, three was the three points reaching to the left, four was the four sides, as a square (leaving out it's "leg"), five was two for the top, one for the beginning of the round part one for the rounded part of it, and one for the end of it. Eight may have been imagining four dots in each circle, as in a pair of dice.

Ria said...

That didn't come out clear in the first paragraph...I meant it would be clearer how I counted points by drawing it.

Ria said...


This is a blog post about a little girl figuring out numbers.

And I will now stop posting comments...

Sandra Dodd said...

Ria, post all you want to. Here's your link "enlivened":


Pam Sorooshian found this discussion of the first illustration above, and related claims:

Ria said...

How about poetry about numbers? I came across this one while looking for a nice poem for my blog, and thought I'd bring it here.



Mary Cornish

I like the generosity of numbers.
The way, for example,
they are willing to count
anything or anyone:
two pickles, one door to the room,
eight dancers dressed as swans.

I like the domesticity of addition--
add two cups of milk and stir--
the sense of plenty: six plums
on the ground, three more
falling from the tree.

And multiplication's school
of fish times fish,
whose silver bodies breed
beneath the shadow
of a boat.

Even subtraction is never loss,
just addition somewhere else:
five sparrows take away two,
the two in someone else's
garden now.

There's an amplitude to long division,
as it opens Chinese take-out
box by paper box,
inside every folded cookie
a new fortune.

And I never fail to be surprised
by the gift of an odd remainder,
footloose at the end:
forty-seven divided by eleven equals four,
with three remaining.

Three boys beyond their mothers' call,
two Italians off to the sea,
one sock that isn't anywhere you look.


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