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Importance of Zero in Mathematics

As per Robert Kaplan, the Harvard Mathematics Professor and the author of the book on Zero, “Zero is in your mind, however, not in the sensory world.” When we talk about the history of numbers in mathematics, zero is the relevant one which has the meaning of nothing however, to us, means everything as it is maybe the most utilized number in the mathematics curriculum. Zero is quite significant for the place-holding value. In case you have the number two hundred four, how do you write it to make yourself understand that no tens are there in this number? You can’t write it as just 24, because then it is a completely different number (a 2-digit one). 

We get to derive every counting number from zero i.e. from nothing. It lays the basis of the number system. All in all, it is a reality and an abstraction at the same time. While talking about the importance of zero in mathematics, how can we forget that once we had this number, only then do we have the negative numbers. Zero supports us in comprehending that we can utilize mathematics to think about those things which have no counterpart in the physical lived experience. All the infinite procedures in mathematics dance around pivot around the idea of zero. 

History of the number system in maths

The most usual representation of the numbers is the Hindu Arabic Number system developed by Bramhagupta and Aryabhata. In Mathematics, there is the term known as Decimal Place Value System also known as Positional Notation. The place value notation concept was evolved by Aryabhata and is the number system’s backbone since, without the place value notation, we can’t display numbers. Moreover, Bramhagupta was the first one who utilized the zero symbol. Again, without Zero, the number theory isn’t possible. 

Although, when it comes to the concept of zero and place value notation, both of these were developed in India, but later on, they were hugely spread in the other countries and Arabs altered it. 

As specified above, the easiest number system is the Unary number system utilized to tally scores and marks as well as for coding purposes. Let’s take a look at the unary display for bigger numbers. Take 543, in case / stands for tens, + for hundreds, and – stands units for units, then its representation will be +++++////- for 543. Also, this system is referred to as a sign modification system and the roman number system is this concept’s modification. Please note that Hindu texts on the numbers were translated by Arabs and then were extended across the Western world. 

Who introduced the concept of zero?

The first-ever evidence we have of this number is from the Sumerian culture in Mesopotamia, approximately 5000 years ago and then eventually we got to know the countless uses of zero. There, the slanted double wedge was inserted between the cuneiform symbols for the numbers, written positionally, for indicating the absence of the number in the place. It was the same way you would write 102, the “0” signifying no digit in the tens column. The 1st recorded zero occurred in Mesopotamia around 3 BC. The Mayans were the ones behind its invention independently circa 4 AD. Later, it was devised in India during the mid-5th century, spread to Cambodia near the 7th century’s end, and into China as well as Islamic countries at the 8th’s end. 

This symbol changed over time as the positional notation (for which zero was significant), made its way to the Babylonian empire and from there to India, through Greeks (in whose culture zero made an only occasional and late appearance while the Romans hadn’t any trace of it at all). The discovery of zero in maths took an interesting turn when it arrived in India as, before that, there wasn’t a complete grasp of its significance. There, mathematician Brahmagupta and others utilized tiny dots under the numbers for showing the zero placeholders, however, they also saw it as having the null value, known as “sunya”. 

History of zero in maths

As the placeholder, Zero was independently invented in the civilizations throughout the Globe. A few scholars assert that the Babylonian concept wove its way down to India, however, others offer Indians the credit to independently develop numerical zero. The professionals are of the view that several so-called “cultural antecedents” were found in ancient India which makes it possible that the mathematical zero digits were invented there. From India, this number made its way to China and back to the Middle East, where zero was taken up by mathematician Mohammed Ibn-Musa Al-Khowarizmi around 773. In terms of the history of numbers in mathematics, it was al-Khwarizmi who first assessed Indian arithmetic and represented how this number could function in the algebraic equations. 

By the 9th century, this number has entered the Arabic number system in a manner resembling an oval shape you use today. This number continued to migrate for another few centuries before ultimately reaching Europe sometime around the 1100s. The thinkers like Italian mathematician Fibonacci assisted introduce this zero to the mainstream, and it later prominently figured in the works of Rene Descartes with Sir Issac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz’s invention of calculus. Since then, this “nothing” concept has consistently played a role in the evolution of everything, from economics and physics to computing and engineering. 

Zero – The “nothing” that is “everything”!

We humans may have only come to the understanding of zero as the number 1500 years ago. However, in terms of the importance of zero in mathematics, what experiments on monkeys and bees represent us is that it is not only our ingenuity’s work. Perhaps, it is also evolution’s culminating work. There are still amazing mysteries about zero. This number is not only a point between negative numbers and positive numbers or only quantity’s absence. In reality, zero is the mathematical symbol that has a religious, cultural, and philosophical background. Indeed, it is the simple “0” which has meant a lot of things to a lot of people including the devil, emptiness, chaos, nothingness, and infinity. 

Currently, it also displays something free ($0), null (0), and infinitesimal (0.00001). It signifies the things’ starting point or a pause before things start. Also, it is the symbolism for eternity and unity, a closed circle. However, its links to infinity are separated from the “8” symbol only by the idea that it has a lot of other representations and meanings. 

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