@SadisticCynic:

Yeah, it seems that the introduction of any type of number beyond the natural numbers (i.e., the counting numbers, 1, 2, 3, 4,...etc) has been met with arguments about how to define it. Heck, even today mathematicians still argue over this stuff (e.g. "Should zero be included as a natural number?").

Freakzilla wrote:SadisticCynic wrote:Slugger wrote:Freakzilla wrote:Didn't Arabs invent zero? Maybe "invent" is the wrong word.

It was Indian mathematicians who first asserted that zero was in fact a number and treated it as such in their calculations (other cultures knew about zero,

**but argued whether it was a number and had use beyond place holding or used it in obscure calculations**). Indian mathematicians also gifted to us our decimal-based notation.

That seems to happen fairly often e.g irrational numbers, imaginary numbers etc.

What does?

And if you want to get technical, didn't the Mayans have a symbol for zero before the Hindu?

Well, there's a difference between having a symbol representing the concept of zero (i.e. a null set) and having a "zero" in the sense that you can perform mathematical operations with. The Romans and Greeks knew about the concept of "zero" and had a symbol for it, and I believe the Greeks used it as a placeholder. Roman mathematics didn't really require the concept of a zero-number, as mathematical functions weren't performed the same way with their Numerals (i.e. 2-2 = 0, but our method of calculating the difference is different than the method the Romans employed).

I can't really speak about the Mayan's and their math, but I believe reading somewhere that they did in fact have a symbol for zero. If you go by chronological order, then the Mayans may predate the Hindu in the use of a zero-symbol, but for use in mathematical functions the Indians were the first to employ the zero-number (because of how they wrote numbers, i.e. their decimal notation).