top of page


It is not known who invented numbers, but it’s fun to think that some early caveman named Oog did it when he said ‘uhn’, ‘uhn uhn’, and ‘uuuuuuhhn’ which meant one, two and lots.

The earliest written numbers were mostly tallies. These are simple lines with each one representing one object. The tallies were found carved on pieces of animal bones over 50,000 years ago. The bones were used as counting sticks; implying the act of numbering.

The Roman Numerals were later invented between 900 B.C and 800

B.C. These were developed out of the need for a common method of counting. However, the romans found it difficult to work with roman numbers because they did not use place values in the same way that we do today. They did not have a symbol for 0. It was quite hard to do arithmetic with Roman numbers.

The following are the rules for reading the Roman numerals. They are very simple, once you get the hang of it.

  1. When a symbol is followed by a smaller symbol or symbols, you add up their values:

For example:

VI = 5 add 1 = 6;

CXXIII = 100 add 20 add 3 = 123;

DII = 500 add 2 = 502;

2. When a symbol or symbols are followed by a larger value symbol,

you subtract their values:

For example:

IV = 5 minus 4 = 4;

CMXL = (CM)1000 minus 100(900) and (XL) 50 minus 10 (40) = 940;

CDII = (CD) 500 minus 100 (400) and (II) 2 = 402.

So the numbers for 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 are:

I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, and X.

bottom of page