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why have we chosen our number system to be decimal (base 10)

0,1,2,3,.......9! What are the reasons fow which this system is the most popular? Why not any other base? It though seems to us that working with bases 4,5,2 or 12 might be difficult, but isn't that because we know there are simple numbers like 10,20..............? It also seems that the question would remain the same if it was 3 instead of 10, but that would again demand an answer. What are the reasons that would make one particular base lead the others?

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marked as duplicate by Jennifer Dylan, Austin Mohr, Pete L. Clark, t.b., Asaf Karagila Aug 13 '12 at 18:49

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Well my guess is because humans have a total of ten fingers. –  Fernando Martinez Aug 13 '12 at 17:35
I'm counting the reasons on my fingers... –  copper.hat Aug 13 '12 at 17:47
well it used to be 60 in Sumer and Babylon, and there are remnants of base 20 in french (80=quatre-vingt, literally "four twenty"). Also technically speaking the base is always $10$, by the definition of what $10$ denotes in that base. –  Robert Mastragostino Aug 13 '12 at 17:49
@copper.hat: 1023 is a huge lot of reasons... ;) –  tomasz Aug 13 '12 at 17:50

3 Answers 3

The number words of various cultures are practically universally given in base 5, base 10, or base 20, with 10 being the overwhelmingly most popular, which shows clearly that people counted on their fingers, and sometimes also toes.

More interestingly, it also shows that counting is more primitive and fundamental than dividing. Base 10 is not the most practical for division, so when accurate division became more important, other bases were introduced, like 6, 12, and 60, for different uses. This did not change the names of the numberes, though, only how one worked with them.

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I think it is a matter of convention, but if you would like to use any other base it is fine,but i think bases like 2,3 have more mathematical advantage than 10,if you are willing to write more numbers.

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Rather than mathematical advantage i think it is a matter of history, humans started using this in many parts of the world, specially the Arabs

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Humans once started using stones and sticks in many parts of the world, but that has remained history. –  Swapnanil Saha Aug 13 '12 at 17:58
@SwapnanilSaha Paper and computers have many advantages over sticks and stones. The same can't really be said for other bases. –  SiliconCelery Aug 13 '12 at 18:12
Babylonians used one based on 60, our 60-second minutes and 60-minute hours derive from their calendar. –  gt6989b Aug 13 '12 at 18:13
@ SiliconCelery : And that is my question, why? –  Swapnanil Saha Aug 13 '12 at 18:13
@SN77: Usually, posting two separate answers is done only if the two answers are very different in character. Is there a reason why you've separated these two answers? Perhaps you would consider combining them? –  mixedmath Aug 13 '12 at 23:22

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