Foradian Technologies - Official Blog

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Interesting story about the origin of ‘+’ and ‘-’ signs in arithmetic

We can we never think of mathematics without the ‘+’ plus and ‘-’ minus signs. While we do have a plethora of mathematical symbols for division(÷), multiplication (×), integral (∫)etc, at its core its always the ‘+’ and ‘-’ symbols. From our elementary days, we’ve been taught about these two integral symbols. It could be considered as the ABC’s of mathematics and things wouldn't have been the same without them. The same symbols are used everywhere, around the world. A little curiosity to know how these originated and evolved to present form wouldn't hurt.
The signs as used in the earliest civilizations
The plus and minus signs (+ and −) are mathematical symbols used to represent operations of addition and subtraction as well as the notions of the positive and negative. Moreover, the Plus and Minus are Latin terms meaning "more" and "less", respectively. The origins of these two symbols dates back to the Egyptian hieroglyphics where they used symbols which resembled ‘a pair of walking legs’, either walking away or towards, representing addition or subtraction. Similarly, just like the Greeks, the Hindus too, did not have a particular sign for addition and subtraction. Many a times, they used ‘yu’ to mark addition. ‘Yu’ was used in the Bakhshali manuscript arithmetic, belonging to the period of 3rd or 4th century. It was in the early 15th century Europe, it was noted that ‘P’ and ‘M’ were used for the same. 


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