



Once upon a time there were no numbers. 


There
was the IDEA of numbers, but nobody had a way of writing things
down. 





Then
people started coming up with symbols to stand for numbers. 





One oldtime way maybe you've seen was the Roman
system. 


The Romans said "Hey, we don't need to invent new squiggles. 


We
can just use the ones we already have!" And that's what they did. 


They
said "Let's make the letter I mean one. 


V can mean five. X can mean ten. L
can mean fifty. And so it went. 


They had a new code. A number
code. 





For example: 


VII means
seven






LXXVI means seventy
six






That worked OK until people started doing
seroius math. 





MCXVII times LXVI just
doesn't cut it!






So now we use a different system. 


It was invented in the
Middle East. 





The biggest deal about this system is not the squiggles it
uses. 


The big deal is something called PLACE VALUE. 





Here's how it works. 


The system uses the numbers we all
know. 


They are called the digits. 





0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7,
8, 9






The biggest one of these is 9. 


Without place value, if we needed to write down more than 9 of
something, 


we'd
be out of luck. 





With place value,
when we get to one more than
9 is use the 1 again. 


The
big deal is, we put it in a special place so it means
ten. 





That special place is called: 





THE TENS
COLUMN






The numbers that are smaller than ten go in a place
called: 





THE
ONES
COLUMN 





If we have a number in the tens column, but no number in
the ones column: 











We
put a zero in the ones column so everybody knows who is who: 











The
zero makes sure that everybody knows 


that
the one is in the TENS COLUMN. 





The
zero keeps the one in its place. 


We
sometimes call zeros PLACE KEEPERS. 





We
can add columns to the left of the ones we already have. 


We
can do that forever to get bigger and bigger numbers. 


There
is no limit to how big a number we can make. 


Each
1 in a column is worth as much as ten 1s in the column to its
right. 


The
next column to the left is called the HUNDREDS
COLUMN. 


It
is the last single column that has its own special name: 














Why
did they make each one in a column worth as much as ten 


in
the column to the right? 





Why
not 8 times as much? Why not 62 times as much? 





No
special reason. They could have done it that way. 


If
we had 8 or 62 fingers instead of 10, they might have done it that
way ... 





The
column a number is in also tells you how to say the number. 





If
the first number is in the hundreds column, 


say
the number and then the word Hundred. 


Then
go on. 





Next
comes the tens column. 


The
tens column is really weird. 


You
should be able to say the number and then some word like ten and go
on. 


No
chance. We need more pain. 


Math
types invented a bunch of words for the numbers in the tens
column. 


One
word for each number, except for 1 and 0. They are: 





2 
Twenty 
3 
Thirty 
4 
Forty 
5 
Fifty 
6 
Sixty 
7 
Seventy 
8 
Eighty 
9 
Ninety 






Now
for the number one. 


A
one in the tens column can have a bunch of different names. 


It
depends on what number is in the ones column next to it. 


The
good news is that the name counts for both the one in the tens
column 


AND
the number in the ones column. 


The
names are: 





10 
Ten 
11 
Eleven 
12 
Twelve 
13 
Thirteen 
14 
Fourteen 
15 
Fifteen 
16 
Sixteen 
17 
Seventeen 
18 
Eighteen 
19 
Nineteen 






So
if the number in the tens column is a 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, or 9 


we
use one of those names that ends in "ty". 





Then
we deal with the number in the ones column. 


This
one is easy. Just say or write the number. 





If
the number in the tens column is a one, 


we
use one of the names above that mostly end in
"teen". 


Hmmm,
teen is kind of like saying ten in some other language eh? 





So
what about our old pal the zero? 


Here
we get some good news. 


When
you get to a zero, just skip it! 





Now
with these names we can write the name of the number we had a bit
ago. 


It
was 328. 





The
way we write it is: 





THREE 

HUNDRED 

TWENTY 

EIGHT 
The first number is in
the hundreds column, so write the number ... 

And add the word hundred 

The number in the tens
column is between 2 and 9 so we use a word that ends in TY,
In this case the word Twenty. 

Now just use the regular
name for the number in the ones column. 






So
swell. Now we can deal with numbers up through the hundreds. 


What
about all of the bigger numbers? 


What
do we do with them? 





I'm
glad you asked. 





For
numbers bigger than hundreds, 


we
use the hundreds, tens and ones columns again. 





But
this time, we add
another word. 


We
are going to use our three columns again and again. 


Each
time we use them, we add a different word. 


It's
kind of important that you learn the first few of these. 


Here
are the first two: 











We
make little groups of every three columns. 


The
three columns on the right don't have any special name 


you
need to remember, but the other groups do. 





Starting
from the right, the second group is called the thousands. 


The
third group is called the millions. 


After
that you get to billions and trillions 


and
lots of other names that end in "illions". 





To
say these big numbers, 


just
say the name of the three column number from the group 


and
add the group name. 





Another
little trick we use when we write a great big number as digits 


is
to put a comma between each 3 number group. 


Say,
here comes a big number now: 





3,781,204






If
we put that big number into the grid, we get: 











To
say or write the number: 





Start
at the left and say the 3 column group number. 


Then
say the group name and move on. 





So
for this puppy we have: 





THREE
MILLION, SEVEN HUNDRED EIGHTY ONE
THOUSAND, TWO HUNDRED FOUR






Did
you notice how we just skipped right over the zero in the last
group? 


Tricky
eh? We also added commas after the group names. 


You
should do that to be really correct. 





copyright 2005 Bruce Kirkpatrick 
