Mathematics

Is zero a Number



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There are many questions raised in the subject of mathematics, but one little question that it seems can never be answered is this.  Is zero a number?  This question seems to have no definite answer, for there are many different opinions on the subject. 

There are two main opinions about zero.  Some define it as “just a place holder so other numbers are positioned correctly,” while others describe it as “a number itself in the form we use as zero.”  Nobody knows which one of these definitions is correct.  For all we know both of them could be wrong, or both of them could be correct.  There is truly no way of knowing, but there are facts supporting each.

Let us dive into the first concept about the number zero, that zero is just a place holder.  This concept seems to have much more support than the other, for it can be seen that in ancient history that the use of zero and negative number did not exist.  Zero and negative numbers back then would have been seen as a strange or abstract concepts, unlike they are seen today.  “There are giant mental leaps from five horses to five “things” and then to the abstract idea of “five.”  If ancient people solved a problem about how many horses a farmer needed then the problem was not going to end or have zero or negative twenty-three as an answer.” 

            The second concept is that zero is actually a definite number.  This concept seems to have less of a backup to it, for zero did not seem to actually appear until Greek astronomers started to use the symbol O.  There are many theories of why the Greeks used this symbol.  One seemingly definite explanation is that “the symbol stands for “obol,” a coin that in the days of the Greeks had almost no value, and that it arises when counters were used for counting on a sand board.”  The Indians also used an evolved version of O, which soon evolved into zero.  Zero could be supported as an actual number also by this concept, “if there is none of an object, then there is zero of the object, and what other number could describe nothing as zero does.”

As it can be seen, there is no definite answer to these questions, only opinions and theories.  All we can do is look farther into the past for more information and wait for an answer. 

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