# Maths objective - Explaining how the number system has changed over time...

Discussion in 'Primary' started by Astya, Jun 9, 2016.

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1. ### AstyaNew commenter

Hi all,

I'm wondering how you teach this objective...

- Explain how the number system has changed over time to include the concept of zero and place value

Anyone got any good resources/activities?

Astya

2. ### cellerdoreOccasional commenter

Love this You will have to do a bit of fact checking as I've never had to go into too much depth but a good starting point would be the Babylonian (I think) system, although many ancient cultures used a similar system.

They used a duodecimal (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duodecimal) system because 12 has a good amount of factors. You could get them to explore this system- is there a relationship between the number of factors for each multiple of 12? Can they think of things that they use today that have a base of twelve? months of the year, seconds in a minute, minutes in an hour, hours in a day, inches in a foot, degrees in a circle etc. This then links wonderfully into fractions because of the aforementioned factors. My children love finding out about this and it demystifies a lot of the arbitrary number systems we use. Also stops them from using addition and subtraction algorithms when solving time problems .

From there, you can compare duodecimal to base ten system and talk about relative merits/weaknesses. Our current number system originated in India and was refined in Arabia. The "father of algebra" (forgot his name) was from arabia and that makes an interesting stop on the journey. This video then explains why zero is so important.

Now I've got to the end of this, I realise that you are probably asking for senior school so apologies for no further recommendations. This is usually where I stop for Y6 . Hope its a help.

3. ### Vince_UlamStar commenter

You don't need to make a huge thing of this or plan an all-singing, all-dancing lesson scheme reviewing number theory. Just touch upon the fact that zero was introduced by some long-dead mathematicians as a spacer to maintain place-value and it was such a clever idea that we still use it today. This is all they need to know because this is how they will use it.

Melvyn Bragg's In Our Time has a good episode on zero. The first ten minutes cover things nicely. Don't give yourself more work than is necessary or you risk confusing the children.

4. ### Vince_UlamStar commenter

Don't forget to give them lots of practise, too.

5. ### AstyaNew commenter

It is for primary, sorry I should have said that! I teach in Y34.

This is great - really like the link to things which are in 12s. Would be a good discussion! Thanks!

cellerdore likes this.
6. ### AstyaNew commenter

Thanks for this, I will definitely check that out!

Vince_Ulam likes this.