diez, ju, zehn, dix, dieci, on, ten!


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I saw that I just made my 111th post, and that made me think of Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring and Bilbo's eleventy-first (111th) birthday party. And that made me think of something that's been on my mind lately.

Why do we use a base 10 (that's the right term, I think?) numbering system? And so does everyone else - at least everyone whose language I could think of and verify that at 10, the numbering system kind of starts repeating in some fashion. Though if I remember correctly, there were some cultures in the past - not that I remember which ones - that used different systems..

Does anyone know the history of this? Any underlying philosophy if there is one? That is, is there some thing about human nature that drives us to think of things in base 10? Or is that just how it happened to work out?
iirc it's because we have 10 fingers and thus, when our ancestors would count, it became a base 10 system. But there were also other people who were base 20 because they included their toes when counting.
Hi Sara:

Formal ciphering systems go back to the Sumerian civilizations (beginning about 6,000 yrs. ago in what is now Iraq), and the numbers ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, and sixty were most important to them. They had separate Gods for each of the six ten year periods. From them we derived the 60 system that we use in timekeeping today. Clay tablets have been excavated at city-state gate areas which demonstrate how records of ciphering emerged even before written words, and before the tablets were used tokens were passed between the traders to keep accounts related to the goods they traded.

But I'm with Dauer on the origin of the base ten system...definitely fingers and toes. Great question !

My kids were recently doing work with I believe a Mayan (??) system base 6.

Our computers ae binary,,,in the US in fluids we use base 128 for gallons, 32 for quarts, 16 for pints...then in linear measurement we have base 12 for feet, base 3 and 36 for yards, and then break the inch down ridiculously....

Not utilizing base 10 for all this makes for many errors from construction to baking...

I guess with previous analogies posited we are lucky we didn't end up with base 21.