The Hindus of India were the first people to develop the place-value system. They used symbols for the numbers one to nine and a special symbol for the number zero. The symbol for zero was especially important. A zero made it possible to show that a place was empty.

About a thousand years ago, Arab traders took the Hindu system to Europe. The place value system made it possible to do calculations without using an abacus. As a result it became popular in most countries of the world.

In time, the shapes of the ten symbols changed but the idea of place value stayed the same. The ten symbols are sometimes called digits. Digit is Latin for finger. For historical reasons, our present number system is called the Hindu- Arabic system. The digits we use are quite different from those used in Arabic countries
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