To me, it seems like such a waste of energy to teach children a new set of symbols $(0,1,2.....)$ after they have learnt the alphabet. Why do we not replace $a=0$ and $b=2$ until $j=9$ and use the other letters as operations such as multiplication and division and use the upper cases for $A=a^{2}=0^{2}$ and $B=b^{2}=1^{2}$ and so on. I believe that most people are more fluent with the alphabet than the numbers, hence why you read so fast. Also, I do not think it would add to confusion if it is a sentence or an equation since the chances are so low and it should be clear depending on the back ground. Would this not allow for efficiency and make it easier for people to grasp math (at least at school level) ? Are there any problems with this way? I have been thinking about it and have not found any big disadvantages.

I apologize if this question violates the rules of the site.


closed as primarily opinion-based by Somos, John Omielan, Lord Shark the Unknown, Xander Henderson, Lee David Chung Lin Apr 21 at 4:21

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  • $\begingroup$ Doesn't Hebrew use some letters as numbers? EDIT: Yep! $\endgroup$ – Shaun Apr 20 at 23:56
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    $\begingroup$ @Shaun I think that hebrew used letters as numbers but has switched to european numbers in modern times $\endgroup$ – Bor Kari Apr 21 at 0:03
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    $\begingroup$ Are you certain that using the same symbols for multiple things is easier and less confusing than introducing new symbols? At least to me, this is not obvious. $\endgroup$ – Arthur Apr 21 at 0:04
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    $\begingroup$ "a big cab" or did you mean "0 186 201"? It would be confusing! $\endgroup$ – Winther Apr 21 at 0:15
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    $\begingroup$ I'm pretty confident that learning a handful of additional symbols is an almost negligible barrier to mastery of arithmetic. The reason you can fly through words so quickly is that they are highly redundant as is wtnsd by drpng lttrs. You obviously can't randomly drop numbers from an arithmetic expression and expect them to be inferred. Formal notations in general tend to be significantly more information-dense than natural language text as that is part of the motivation for creating them. $\endgroup$ – Derek Elkins Apr 21 at 1:05

TL;DR: That's just the system we chose.

Slightly Longer Version:

The idea of using numbers as letters exists in some languages: Hebrew, Greek, Coptic, etc. used letters as the basis of their numerical system.

The problems arise however, when we want to use variables, or use numbers in a sentence. For instance:

"O men!"

Could mean "15 men!" or as an interjection like here.

Variable declariations would also be a problem: the equation $ x = y + 2 $ could evaluate to $ 24 = 25 + 2 $ or as the linear equation we all know and love.

All in all, that method of numerical systems is outdated and problematic, which is why we adopted the Arabic numeral system.

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    $\begingroup$ I would think that the main reasons for preferring the Arabic numeral system over those others were that it is positional (uses fewer symbols, infinitely extensible) and has zero. $\endgroup$ – amd Apr 21 at 0:13
  • $\begingroup$ to be fair in computer science they do use letters Hexadecimal, Base 64 in youtube video tags. $\endgroup$ – Roddy MacPhee Apr 26 at 16:24

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