Additional Math Pages & Resources

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

How do YOU say numbers?

Today's post follows along after the telephone number musing from yesterday. 


There are (firm but often un-written) rules in each language for pronouncing numbers and counting.

These rules in English are pretty inconsistent, but we don't notice that much because we learn them very early in our math training. Let's take a look:

 Here we are inconsistent in how we write and speak the numbers.

⑩ ten ⟶  ten-ty one ? No, wrong!
⑪ eleven  where did this come from? It matches nothing!

Here we are a bit less inconsistent in how we write and speak the numbers. 
Why does twenty sound like it follows 12, when it's really two sets of ten? 
Why does thirty sound like thirteen, when it's three sets of 10?  and so on to 59.

⑫ twelve ⟶  twen-ty ⟶  twen-ty-five  (twe instead of two)

⑬ thirteen ⟶ thir-ty ⟶  thir-ty-five  (thir instead of three)

⑭ fourteen ⟶ for-ty ⟶  for-ty-five  (for instead of four)

⑮ fifteen ⟶  fif-ty ⟶  fif-ty-five  (fif instead of five)

 From sixty upwards we are consistent in how the numbers are written and spoken.

⓰ sixteen ⟶  six-ty ⟶  six-ty-five
⓱ seventeen ⟶  seven-ty ⟶  seven-ty-five
⓲ eighteen ⟶  eigh-ty ⟶  eigh-ty-five
⓳ nineteen ⟶  nine-ty ⟶  nine-ty-five
Consistent except when it comes to the zero! Why don't we say ninety-zero? We could.  Here's a more consistent system that we could try:

10. one T zero
11. one T one
12. one T two
13. one T three
14. one T four
15. one T five
16. one T six
17. one T seven
18. one T eight
19. one T nine
20. two T zero
21. two T one
22. two T two

90. nine T zero
91. nine T one
92. nine T two
93. nine T three
94. nine T four
95. nine T five
96. nine T six
97. nine T seven
98. nine T eight
99. nine T nine
100.  ten T zero
110.  eleven T zero oops! That's wrong.

110.  ten one T zero
111.  ten one T one

120.  ten two T zero
121.  ten two T one

Some of these thoughts came from a mathematician named LaFarr Stuart. He also wants us to move to a base 12 system - a suggestion I think we can ignore for now.

The military and aviation worlds are very interested in safety, security and speed when it comes to pronouncing words and numbers. They have come up with their own rules that over-ride the standard English grammar we learn in school. I find their system fascinating, so I will tackle it another time.

For now, this is Mike, signing off with


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