How did Arithmetic Originate?

            Arithmetic is the study of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division of numbers. The word ‘arithmetic’ is derived form the Greek word ‘arithmos’ which means numbers. In the beginning of civilization, ma used to count his sheep, cows, oxen and other animals on fingers. In fact, the word digit, which is used to denote numbers from zero to nine, finds its origin in the Latin word ‘digitus’ meaning a finger or toe. Later on, man started counting by putting marks on wall or sticks of wood. This process ended soon and man started using various signs and symbols for each number.

            The Egyptians used straight lines for counting one to ten. The Greek used the letters of their alphabets for this purpose. Just to make the difference clearer, a small sign used to be affixed to the letters. For example, they would write ‘a’ for one, ‘b’ for two and ‘j’ for ten. The Romans used to write the first five digits as, I, II, III, and IV and V. they used to write X for ten, L for fifty, C for hundred, D for five hundred and M for one thousand. Roman digits are used even today in some places.

            The numerals presently in used are called Arabic numerals because it was from the Arabs that these numerals spread to Europe. The Arabs called mathematics ‘Hindi sat’ meaning Indian. Actually, they are Indian by origin and have their roots in Gujarat of 6th century A.D. so they should rightly be called Indian numerals. Zero is also Indian by origin and is called ‘Shoonya’, meaning empty or nothing, which became ‘Sifr’ in Arabic. In 1202, an Italian prepared the first book of arithmetic based on the Arabic system.

            The first book arithmetic in the Latin language was printed in 1478. By that time, the arithmetical methods of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division and fully developed. Mathematicians took centuries to develop the methods now used in arithmetic. It is a skill necessary in science, business and everyday life.