Date of Award
The concept of numbers and the process of counting developed long before the time of recorded history. The manner of its development is not known for certain but is largely conjectural. It is presumed that man, even in most primitive times, had some number sense, at least to the extent of recognizing "more" or "less" when objects were added or taken away from a small group. As civilization progressed it became necessary for man to count. He needed to know the number of sheep he owned, the number of people in his tribe, etc. The most logical method was to allow some object to stand for each thing being counted. Since the fingers were so convenient, they were most often used as such a means. The plan of indicating numbers by the digits of one or both hands is so natural that it was almost universal among early races. The number five was generally represented by the open hand and it is said that in almost all languages the words five and hand are derived from the same root. It is possible that in early times man did not count beyond five and anything larger was represented by multiples of it. It is possible that the Roman symbol X, for ten, represents two V' s. Most races, however, apparently used both hands and could count up to ten. Some tribes seem to have gone further and, by using their toes, could count up to twenty. Counts could also be made by making collections of pebbles or sticks, by making scratches in the dirt or on a stone, by cutting notches in a piece of wood, or by tying knots in a string.
Moffett, Janet, "A History of Mathematics Through the Time of Greek Geometry" (1969). Honors Theses. 386.