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MATH - How do place value and our concept of zero affect our world?

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I'm having trouble answering this question:

How do place value and our concept of zero affect our world?

Could anyone help with a few ideas? Anything is greatly appreciated :D

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Well all I can think of is that they both give us the ability to think in the absolute abstract. Rather like negative numbers. You can see one, two, three, five hundred and thirteen, but the big thing about zero and decimal places is that they're 100% constructs. You can't have 0.2 of something, not really, and you can't "see" zero of something. What you've created are constructs to help you understand the world.

Zero, of course, is quantifying nothing. As a concept, you can probably consider nothing to be intrinsic to a great number of things. Binary code, for instance :P Off and on!

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I've had no instruction in TOK so I could just be babbling, but I remember reading that systems without the concept of place values didn't work as well [obvious, right? I mean, this is why we have place values] For example, Roman numerals. No zero, no place value. Add XXIV to III. There's no algorithm or method to do it. You would convert to the numbers we use today, add them, and then convert back. [XXVII :P]

To me, it's strange that we see zero as 'nothing' yet as a place holder, it lets us recognize the difference between 803 and 83. Yet it can and does increase the value of something by tenfold in base 10, and by other values in other bases.

So place value makes computation easier/possible. It also marks precision, with significant digits/figures and all. Like Sandwich said, there is nothing concrete about having 2.00 cows and 2.000 cows.... It's let us go from counting things to a new dimension--for lack of a better word. For the sciences, this is a huge step. Recognizing why when a calculation is done 5 times with the same data, you can have different results [rounding differently, in this case].

And I feel like the more I write, the more idiotic I shall sound, so I'll stop there :(

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Maybe I'm getting off topic here, but you could mention how theorethical maths actually is. We never really experience much of it. I mean, when does one observe a division? Even simple things such as addition doesn't always work in real life. Imagining having a glass of water and pouring it into another glass of water, then you'll still only have one glass. Or take one rabbit and add one rabbit of the opposite sex and then you'll have a lot more than two rabbits.

Maybe this wasn't really relevant, but it migth be useful anyway...

Edited by Ruan Chun Xian
Bolded comment made me laugh - Hien
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