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Growing Ideas of Number

Growing Ideas of Number by John N Crossley; David Leigh-Lancaster
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The numbers that circumscribe our lives seem always to be growing: our age, the cost of living (usually), our income (or so we hope), the population of the world. Numbers permeate every aspect of our lives. The distance of the sun (about 150 million kilometres or 93 million miles) has been known for centuries, and is now described as merely ‘1 astronomical unit’ so that we can readily account for much greater astronomical distances. Gigabytes were unknown in the middle of last century, now it is terabytes and petabytes that are less well known. National deficits are no longer measured in millions, but billions or trillions. Not only do numbers grow but the ideas of what a number is, and what numbers are, have also grown—and multiplied. The very word ‘number’ has many meanings: the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) lists 33 for the noun alone. Other words can sometimes be used, such as ‘digit’ or ‘numeral’. All have ambiguities. In general, but not always, this book is concerned with the abstract number rather than its representation. In this book, ‘number’ will generally refer to the ‘natural numbers’; rational, real and complex numbers will usually be referred to as ‘rationals’, and so on.
Australian Council for Educational Research; December 2006
122 pages; ISBN 9781429454841
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Title: Growing Ideas of Number
Author: John N Crossley; David Leigh-Lancaster