A lot of names. That is just one way to describe number. Names for how much, how many, or in terms of a concept, quantity. Or a bunch of signs. Names for signs, in a word symbols. Things those words enable that are True ... and Strange.
dozen, hour, minute, and week all are names. The last three are
amounts, measures, units of time. Some names are of quantities of
any kind: words like five, six, or eight. They
give ways to say how many are present
of most objects
whether it is
eggs, minutes, seconds or days. Number-symbols are shorter than words.
They came from picturing quantity, but in many cases the symbols are far
different than those early pictures. This page deals particularly with two
quantities that are connected to digital computers.
reflects the fingers of a hand, while sixteen indicates some
computers' number of ones and zeroes.
An overview table at Sixteen lists some symbols with math and computing language about them. The table parts can be individually reached from the last five of six pointers in 16_Links. Some ways of writing sixteen are at Tallied.
The numeric symbol five repeats in the "Figure Five in Gold" painting by Demuth, found in the New York City Metropolitan Museum of Art. Inspired by William Carlos Williams' poem The Great Figure, the image of fives and fire engine headlights, assigns power to the vehicle. That power belongs to humanity's invention of numbers.
Five and sixteen, six and eight, all four are called whole or natural (both words are in use). They contrast with things like five-sixths or five-eighths that express fractional or proportional quantities, and to which we give the name ratios. There are many ways to write fractions. In one place where writing began, Egypt, a dot on a symbol showed that it was that fractional part, not that whole number. There general fractions like five-sixths and five-eighths could not have been expressed in a simple way (Egyptians wrote them as sums of unit fractions like - using * for the dot - *3 + *6 + *6 + *6 to represent what today is commonly written 5/6).
Similarly Related Art
The Great Figure
William Carlos Williams
Among the rain
I saw the figure 5
on a red
to gong clangs
and wheels rumbling
through the dark city
Numbers came about and still act today to increase people's power in commerce. (Getting good at business means keeping track of small differences.)
One way to view mathematics is as building on or extending numbers. There are many mathematical concerns. They all result from thinking. That thinking started when someone had a new idea. Nevertheless the importance, and the actual origin of those ideas, is in solving some problem. One way to see that notion is to consider finding the whole numbers, for instance one through ten, or one up to eighteen, or even twenty, from simple combining operations on exactly four fours (all must be used each time the result is obtained). Gardner [1, p. 51] puts "simple" this way: the arithmetical signs for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division together with the square-root sign (repeated as many finite times as desired, parenthesis, decimal points and the factorial sign. (Factorial n is written n!. It means 1 x 2 x 3 x ... x n.) A decimal point may also be placed above .4, in which case it indicates the repeating decimal .4444 ..., or 4/9.
For whatever reason, I gave up on finding five from four fours. Anyone similarly inclined can see the solutions below (Fig. 7 The game of fours, from Gardner [1, p. 52]): .
The solving a new problem notion is true of even simple ideas like odd: sometimes all we need to do is show something true in the case of an odd number, and then also true when dealing with evens, to prove its universality.
The Apples & Baskets puzzle, the second example, tests understanding of odd and even, the mathematical form of the idea behind digital computers, "on or off."Example 1. (Fractional numbers' parts.) How do we name numbers that are parts of fractions as in 5/6? Aid available .
More on mathematical things can be found from links in Math Sources. Big numbers (and scientific notation) are at Size. An older version of this page is at Dozen; another is at In Progress.
Gardner, Martin, The Numerology of Dr. Matrix, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1967.
|©2006 Allen Klinger|