Perspectives about who wrote the first number

When kids ask questions like these, it becomes an interesting journey to answer them. Answers involve our culture, knowledge, practices, history and processing all threads to come up with a concise answer that captures their attention!

When a 4-year old asked the question – Who wrote the first number?, got an opportunity to think about it and answer it. When I shared this with another group of kids a bit older, their answers were different, a group of adults responded differently. Was interesting to see how our perspectives are molded as we grow and we get conditioned to think in a particular manner!

So, I thought about who wrote the first number and answered thus –

Obviously Brahma had the need to write the first number. Brahma is the creator and creators need to keep track of what they have created and how many (like how many species, how many cats, how many dogs etc). (I was talking to a 4-year old and my response had to resonate – so these examples). What about the other Trinity lords like Shiva and Vishnu? They use their mind and physical energy more and they know, they do not need to keep track. Now, Brahma’s wife Saraswati is the Goddess of Education focusing on what we learn and study, languages, numbers, music, art forms etc. She would create these based on what the Creator Brahma needs. So, Brahma would be the first person who would have written a number.

The 4-year old was satisfied and continued to move on to process it. Am sure the kid would come back with another question soon!

I was sharing it with a group of teens. They loved the response and asked why I chose to give it a cultural twist? Made me think… Yes.. I had given it a cultural twist! I was looking at the first person and my mind went as far as I have gained knowledge and scanned the breadth to come up with a crisp answer. So, I posed the question back to the teens… “How would you have answered it?” They responded thus

I would have chosen to talk about the different cultures – Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Indians, Chinese, Arabic – every ancient culture has a way to write numbers. Cavemen would have wanted to count how many fish they caught, how many days were there in a week, how many days had it been sunny this year, and they would have wanted to write and would have started by making marks on the rocks. I would tell the 4-year old about it to trigger their curiosity around cultures, languages and history!

Another teen answered, I would have chosen to talk about museums and how it showcases some of these, making them want to visit museums and see and learn more about what we did as a human race!

I was humbled 🙂

I shared this conversation with a group of adults. Sharing their response.

It was a beautiful explanation and connection back to culture and our roots. There are many cultures that exist today, and paving a way for a child to start with one culture and then expanding their knowledge and interests to appreciate other cultures would be a good way to mold these kids. We do not focus much on teaching children culture when they are young. Once they start going to school, it becomes all about marks and competitions, if there is a way to continue teaching them about culture and varied interests, it would be a welcome change!

I always end up looking forward to having more such conversations! When you meet a child next time, let them speak and let them asks questions – because we might not be the ones answering their questions, they might be trying to shape our mindset through them!

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