Count like an Egyptian

Ancient Egyptians used symbols (or hieroglyphics) to represent numbers in the ones, tens, hundreds, thousands, ten thousands, and hundred thousands. Use this guide to write like an Egyptian – no papyrus leaf required!

You will need:

  • paper
  • a pencil

Introduction:
This is what the Egyptian numerals looked like:

Procedures:
1. The finger stroke stood for 1.
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2. The arch stood for 10.

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3. The curved rope stood for 100.

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4. The lotus flower stood for 1,000.

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5. The bent finger stood for 10,000.

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6. The tadpole stood for 100,000.

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7. To show more than one of anything, the Egyptians repeated the symbol the correct number of times. The numerals below stood for 23.

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8. But these numerals below also meant 23.

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9. The Egyptians usually wrote their numerals from left to right. But sometimes they wrote them from right to left or from top to bottom.

10. Practice writing the Egyptian symbols shown on this page. See if you can write these numerals in Egyptian:
1. 35
2. 77
3. 112
4. 446
5. 1,245
6. 3,389
7. 10,437
8. 30,686
9. 162,354
10. 410,912
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Learn more about the history of numbers in the Building Blocks of Mathematics!



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