Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
The History of Counting Hardcover – August 25, 1999
All Books, All the Time
Read author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more at the Amazon Book Review. Read it now
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
From School Library Journal
Grade 3-5-One strength of this title is the cultural context into which the information has been placed so that children will understand not only how numbering and counting have evolved over time but also why. Some of the phrasing and several of the cultural examples are sophisticated but for the most part the information has been well adapted to a young audience. The book begins with a brief introduction that defines counting and numbers and then moves on to a historical overview. Hays's attractive paintings, done in acrylic on linen, successfully interpret the concepts explained in the text. It would be a shame if older children dismissed this book because of its picture-book format, since they are unlikely to encounter a better explanation of the subject. There are some fine older, out-of-print books that convey much of the same information, but nothing in recent memory explains the topic quite so well.
Linda Greengrass, Bank Street College Library, New York City
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Scientific American
When we count, we say "one, two, three ... " but it is possible to count without using numbers at all. Perhaps instead we could just point to different parts of our body to represent varying amounts. Pointing to our left shoulder would mean nine, while pointing to our right eye would mean 15. This type of body counting is how the Paiela, the people of the highlands of Papua New Guinea, count. They have no special words for numbers. Another people, the Veddas of Sri Lanka, also count without numbers. They pile up pebbles to represent the objects: one pebble for each object. They have a few special counting words meaning things such as "a single," "a couple," "another one" and "many." In this book, author Schmandt-Besserat draws from her background as an archaeologist and takes us through the early counting techniques of the ancient Middle East to witness the evolution of our modern-day method. Try your hand at counting the way the ancient Sumerians did and experience a world without zero. Try to count like the ancient Greeks and learn the 27 letters of their alphabet that they used as numerals. After short experiments with these techniques, the advantages of the modern system become clear. You'll never look at numbers in quite the same way again.
Top customer reviews
We've been studying ancient civilizations this year, and this book fits in perfectly. We recently studied Egyptian hieroglyphics (including how numbers were represented) and this heightened my sons' interest in the discussion (on pp. 28-29) of the numeric symbols used by Greeks and Romans. Last year we read that the Arabs invented zero, and it was interesting this year to discuss how Egyptians, Greeks and Romans were able to do without a symbol for "nothing" and how important zero is to the concept of place value.
We periodically discuss how our number system is based on 10 as opposed to binary systems (Base 2) and the Sumerian system (primarily Base 60); this book brought that topic up once again and allowed us to take the discussion a step further. Glenn Ellison's Hard Math for Elementary School has an activity where kids do computations in an imaginary Base 8 system: I've been meaning for two years to schedule that activity as a Math Enrichment project, and reading this book paves the way for that.
Finally, one of the best lessons from this book is that not everyone across the globe counts the same way even today. The book begins with a discussion of native groups who still (amazingly!) do without concrete number systems, and we were fascinated to learn that the Paiela people of Papua New Guinea use body counting (where different parts of the body represent different numbers) instead of symbols with abstract numeric value. That means that haggling in a Papua New Guinea marketplace, full of movement and gesticulation, must be very interesting to watch!
The History of Counting moves from primitive counting methods through the expected ancient civilizations from Sumerian to Roman and finally to the Arabic system used today. The text is enriched with discussions of abstract counting, the use of ten digits and a look at people such as the Paiela of Papua New Guinea who utilize unique methods for counting or reckoning "how many."
Written at a fifth grade level, the book includes a glossary and is illustrated with glowing paintings that provide a beautiful counterpoint to the text.
I got this book today and am delighted, I'll be using it for my classes this fall. It is almost a picture book, but dense - enough that I had to re-read parts of it to understand myself. Very highly illustrated so you can *see* what they are talking about, 41 pages, and the history covered is world wide, not just devoted to the Egyptians and Greeks. It is truly a comprehensive and universal history of counting brought down to kid level comprehension.
The print is good sized and spaced well to make it more readable. I'd say it is read alone level for 3rd through 6th. With my own 6 year old I can paraphrase the text and use the great visuals to get the ideas across. There is one page that has a wonderful visual of "body counting" and the wide-spread use of these techniques all over the world actually makes this a good living geography book as well.
For a parent that is very visual, you might like it yourself :o). The artwork isn't juvenile, it's clean and simple, I was very impressed with the book.