Babylonian Number System

published by December Loudermilk

Want to create a visual like this?

Get Started
Babylonian Number System
December Loudermilk
The first mathematics can be traced to the ancient country of Babylon, during the third millennium B.C. Tables were the Babylonians most outstanding accomplishment which helped them in calculating problems.
The Babylonians began a numbering system about 5,000 years ago. It is one of the oldest numbering systems. This numeration system was developed between 3000 and 2000 BCE.
The Babylonians divided the day into twenty-four hours, each hour into sixty minutes, and each minute to sixty seconds.
The Babylonian number system uses only two numerals or symbols, a one and a ten to represent numbers and they looked this these:
The Babylonians developed a form of writing based on cuneiform. Cuneiform means "wedge shape" in Latin.
This number system was a base 60 system, also known as sexigesimal.
Any number less than 10 had a wedge that pointed down. The number 10 was symbolized by a wedge pointing to the left.
They used a big space to separate the space values. They did not have a symbol for zero, but they did use the idea of zero. When they wanted to express zero, they just left a blank space in the number they were writing.
Babylonian System: 1-59
They wrote these symbols on wet clay tablets which were baked in the hot sun. Many thousands of these tablets are still around today. The Babylonians used a stylist to imprint the symbols on the clay since curved lines could not be drawn.
Babylonian tablets dating from about 1800 to 1600 BCE cover topics as varied as fractions, algebra, methods for solving linear, quadratic and even some cubic equations, and the calculation of regular reciprocal pairs (pairs of number which multiply together to give 60).
One of the Babylonian tablets, contains tables of Pythagorean triples for the equation a2 + b2 = c2.
They mostly used their “Geometry” in order to create buildings and other structures. Their geometry extended to the calculation of the areas of: -rectangles -triangles -trapezoids As well as the volumes of simple shapes such as bricks and cylinders.
Babylon Mathematics mainly focused on computation of a number and using algorithms necessary to find the answer. The Babylonians used very detailed tables which utilized multiplication and division but not addition or subtraction.
O'Connor, JJ, and E F Robertson. "Babylonian Numerals." History Topics. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2015. <>.
"Sumerian and Babylonian Mathematics." The Story of Mathematics. Luke Mastin, n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2015. <>.
"The Babylonian Number System." Number Systems. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Dec. 2015. <>.
"The Great Ziggurat Of Ur." Fine Art America. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Dec. 2015. <>.
Boyer, Merzbach. A History of Mathematics. John Wiley & Sons, 1989. Second Edition.
Bunt, Jones, and Bedient. The Historical Roots of Elementary Mathematics. Dover Publications. 1988.