# Who Created the Mathematical Symbols -- Math and More

## Whoever Invented Them, Step Forward!

Believe me, when I was in first grade I was shy as hell. No Mr. brainy or uplifting writer whatsoever. Math was like Chinese or Polski to me. I still remember that first year in grammar school. The year was 1969. Am I old? Not really, age is just a number, according to **Aaliyah**.

I still can picture my first day in class, already chewing my pencil, because mom lied to me. She promised me to come back in a little while.

Yeah right! She came 5 hours later. I see myself seated on my new desk, and to my right... I see a new friend, or future friend, picking his nose and eating that **greenish dried stuff**! Turning to my left, I noticed another red headed fellow boy, crying and tearing up his notebook out of rage. I felt as though I was in a Juvenal facility.... Oh my!

No FB??

## Suddenly, I see That Chalk making that squeal sound...

Writing on a blackboard, these simple numbers

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

Teacher Miss Roberts, started talking about these numbers that our parents used a lot in front of us, as kids. We had to learn how to write them by heart. Today is easier, and you just type the darn numbers. Nonetheless, back in the day, you had to literally 'draw' those stupid numbers.

Eventually, we learned that Phoenicians and Persians, came out with these symbols. But I was just six years old, and everything was just scary -- Whoever never draw a ducky from that number two, never did his/her homework thoroughly. "You talking to me?"

Months later after that Christmas break we got in touch with this simple equation:

**1+2=3 (one plus two equals three)**

I felt like cheating and started using my fingers. Tell me you didn't do it? I was terrified with this new language for a young six years old soul. I always wanted to know why the sign plus is represented by a cross, **'+' **and now that I'm over 50, want to take my young self and find out why they did use all these new symbols the way they did? Talking about child abuse...?

## Going back And Finding Answers

We get in touch with **Robert Recorde **A member of a respectable family of Tenby, Wales, born around 1510 or 1512. We try to get some answers and found him at Oxford University. The year is 1544. He is at the library, and generously gives us a tour. Wow! Nice smell of leather and books! Perfect setting for Harry Potter's next film!

## Robert Recorde's own first ever equation

## In today's clearer numbers

## Visiting Oxford Library....

He shows us this equation:

The writing on the top graph is his own. We hardly recognize the x and some quotation "q" was added around the equal sign "=". Actually is the first equation ever recorded with modern terminology. The following paragraph of his own states, that "is better to introduce** parallel bars **so people can avoid tedious shortened words from Latin." Curious enough, we can browse through middle English before Shakespeare. What a difference from Runic alphabet and venerable Bede's Old English.

## Translation...

*"Howbeit, for easie alteratiõ of equations. I will propounde a fewe exãples, bicause the extraction of their rootes, maie the more aptly bee wroughte. And to auoide the tediouse repetition of these woordes : is equalle to : I will sette as I doe often in woorke vse, a paire of paralleles, or Gemowe lines of one lengthe, thus: =====, bicause noe .2. thynges, can be moare equalle. And now marke these nombers"*

What a beautiful language indeed. This non-Kentish language was written around 1544 and can be understood if you read carefully.

## What about the sign Plus and Minus?

We are there with Recorde whose knowledge of Latin and Theology marked his life. **Henry VIII **will die in 1547. His closest sign is of course the "Cross." The one that adds souls to Christendom. His Alma Matter motto is: "** The Lord is my Light." **We are sure that he chose that sign as a way of thanking his creator. How about the

**Minus sign, "-"**?

We check history and see swords, black death and corpses lying on the streets "------"

Studying his age, his life, and his time, we come with a closer answer: Souls that depart from us, mean, they are subtracted from our everyday life. Amazing right?

My oneself at age six is also having a good time checking those humongous Books from Oxford Library. Certainly, a cinematic scene from "Game of Thrones." A welsh accent from him made us wonder... how about if England would've started speaking Welsh, after 1545? HubPages would been written in Celtic by now. **"No kidding little John!"**

Robert Recorde died in 1558 after being sued for defamation by a political enemy, he was arrested for debt and passed away in the *King's Bench Prison*, Southwalk, by the middle of June in 1558.

## What about the Division Sign?

We had to travel to Switzerland where we find** Johann Rahn** (Latinised form Rhonius) (1622–1676) was a well known mathematician who was credited with the first use of the division symbol, ÷ (obelus). The symbol is used in *Teutsche Algebra*, published in 1659. Now we try to find out why he chose that sign.

From history we get that he lived through the 30 years war. We discovered that from 1654 to 1658 John Pell acted as Oliver Cormwell's political agent to the Protestant Cantons from Switzerland. I and little myself walked to Zurich in 1658. We find that John Pell is on a secret mission, but at the same time is teaching Algebra to Rahn. What we see is that **John Pell **is already writing the division symbol "**÷" ** on multiple equations. He asked Rahn, not to mention his name, because Calvinist Zurich would suspect this Englishman!

We analyze the symbol and recreate its evolution on the graph shown above.

## So who the Hell created the x symbol?

Checking and traveling through time we find our answer: The **×** symbol for multiplication was introduced by William Oughtred in 1631. Oughtred also introduced the abbreviations **sin** and **cos **for sine and cosine functions. My Young self is already lost with trigonometry, so I tell him just to stay calmed. William Oughtred published, among other mathematical works, *Clavis Mathematicae* (The Key to Mathematics), in 1631.

Right on time for Newton to catch up with 2,000 years of math and publicize his Principia Mathematica in 1687. How did he come out with the sign? Sir William Oughtred was innovated freely in symbols, and loved the occult; he had a deep interest in alchemy and astrology. So somehow, he came out with this **triple X** divided by three. "Is not funny Joseph"

## My young self started jumping of joy!

We have visited these mathematicians together, and we have felt their thougthts. For some reason I came to terms with my own little self. I left little Joseph in class, but took with me the smell of Miss Roberts' Parisian perfume... and the rewarding 'candy' she gave me for getting a B^{+} in class, back in 1969. **"Oh would you please Mrs Robinson...!"**

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## Comments 29 comments

Joseph yes I have to admit I still use my fingers.. lol.. I remember those cry babies in school I was one of them..lol... I can tell you love math any kind of math.. You are so good at this.. Your hubs are exceptional.. and so inspiring.. so I need math lessons.. lol

sharing

Debbie

cos itsa sin that's y...

oh who? not sure...

greenish dried stuff (ewe, LORD...) I hope he is OK now.

What the heck is wrong with using your fingers? haha!

Hey pretty fun and interesting...I did wonder how those symbols came about. I wished so many times they had not! haha!

Yes used my fingers and my toes! lol! how clever to figure out the symbols, I still try to figure out the darn maths! if there is one thing I can't do, and I can do plenty! is maths! I just don't get it! I obviously know the usual 1 + 1 etc, but those symbols just throw me! lol!

William Oughtred ... now I have a name for that diabolical creator of "x" and inciter of temper tantrums all over college campuses. I suppose math has a purpose. And yes, I do count on my fingers.

What a cool article. One of those questions that you wonder about when you first come across it, and come across it again, this time much more mystified. I read the hub, and was not disappointed. I definitely find the roots of the plus symbol the most fascinating.

Any info on how the "integral" symbol came about?

It is interesting that you were able to find the creators of these symbols. I would have thought they were much older - too old to really know.

Interesting and useful hub! Shared!

I enjoyed this trip back in time with Math. I vote up and awesome because it's a neat combo!

This one was loaded with funnies, and some intense research from mathematical history trivia it seems, wow, and I like how you partnered your today self with your young child self, wow.

Interesting style of writing here Joseph, I enjoyed ever bit if learning how these math signs were constructed, nice!

Voted up on many levels, and you know the rest.

Another mathematical gem from you Joseph. Seriously I learned quite a bit of this in a graduate course I took on the History of Math, but am a bit ashamed to say I don't remember as much of it as I should. Thanks for the refresher here. Voted and shared too.

Very interesting hub. You propably already have heard of this, but I'm just going to put it out there for others. I read that arabic numerals came from counting angles. Originally a 1 was written with one angle a 2 with two angles and so on up until 9...and the 0 has no angles. Very informative and entertaining hub, voting up, interesting and sharing.

It's curious how all those mathematical symbols got started. I remember when I use to teach elementary school about how the standard units of measures were established to ensure uniformity.Aaahhh, mathematics! So confusing yet so fascinating!

I forgot to say, it was only the inside angles that were counted.

Math..I hated it. Thank goodness for our fingers and toes. HaHa ..Fun hun, educational...

Wow! I didn't know the history of math..haha!! I've always enjoyed it though... not good at it; but I enjoy it nonetheless.

Shared this one.

Interesting read here. I've never had the patience for math (it requires ALL of my concentration) and gave up on it the first chance I could. Right-brain for life! =P

Well written hub but I hate Math!Never have scored well in maths!I wish it was never created=P

Here's to you Mrs. Robinson...if she's the one that dug the well from which this fantastic mind springs! You either really, really like math history or you researched this very well(or maybe both)...either way it was an interesting hub even for me (a mathaphobe).

Voted up and interesting.

I am enlightened... Thank you Sir Joseph for this hub...

For me numbers are the most interesting entities on the earth... they can define anything in a satisfying or non-satisfying way ( you know what I mean? )

To go exploring the origins must have been fun...

Great hub

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