The History of Mathematics

Mesopotamian Numbers and Mathematics

What is the rule of position?

We are most familiar with the rule of position, or place value, as it is applied to the Hindu-Arabic numerals 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 0. This is because their value depends on the place or position they occupy in a written numerical expression. For example, the number 5 represents 5 units, 50 is 5 tens, 500 is 5 hundreds, and so on. The values of the 5s depends upon their position in the numerical expression. It is thought that the Chinese, Indian, Mayan, and Mesopotamian (Babylonian) cultures were the first to develop this concept of place value.


The Babylonians left behind impressive artifacts and also advances in mathematics. They were the first civilization to create a positional system for numbers.


This is a web preview of the "The Handy Math Answer Book" app. Many features only work on your mobile device. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider buying. Get the App