The word ‘arithmetic’ is derived from the Greek word ‘arithmos’ which means numbers. Around 8000 BC, in the Middle and Near East, arithmetic began. People counted on their fingers long before the 16th century BC when the practice was first recorded by the Egyptians. Decimals based on the number 10, evolved from the habit of counting this way.

From the 3rd millennium BC, the Sumerians used a system based on 60-which is 10 multiplied by 6, the number of constellations then known. The Babylonians inherited mathematics from the Sumerians and retained the base-60 system for astronomical calculations but they used a base-ten system for trade. The Babylonians then divided the hour into 60 minutes of 60 seconds each.

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