There are thousands of languages in the world today. Yes, thousands!
Besides English, you might already speak Spanish and you know that
different countries speak their own languages. But within a country,
there can still be tribes in remote areas that speak a language of
their own. These people need a translator who knows both languages
in order to communicate with the world outside their village.
We have no idea how many languages have been spoken in the history
of civilization. Archaeologists continue to find artifacts of lost
civilizations from thousands of years ago. Consider Egyptian hieroglyphics
where the Egyptians used pictures instead of letters as their written
language. Archaeologists are still trying to decipher what these pictures
The Romans left us writings in their language, which is Latin. One
interesting fact about Latin is that no one really knows how to pronounce
the words like the Romans did. People today agree upon how we should
pronounce the words but there aren't any Romans left to teach us how
they pronounced the words themselves.
Throughout history every separate group of people have devised their
own language. It's only been in recent decades that there has been
so much travel around the world and people from different parts of
the world are talking to each other like never before. Perhaps some
day, everyone on earth will speak a common language.
But the title above claims that math is the only true universal language!
How can that be? Right now you should know about two ways to represent
numbers, as Roman numerals and as Arabic numbers. Plus, people in
other countries use different symbols for numbers. With all these
different symbols, how can math be a universal language?
Math is a universal language because the principles and foundations
of math are the same everywhere around the world. Ten plus ten equals
twenty if you write it as Arabic numerals 10 + 10 = 20 or Roman numerals
X + X = XX. The concept of 20 items is the same no matter where you
are in the world.
And, what about geometry? A circle is always a circle and its circumference
is always calculated the same way no matter where you are in the world.
The same holds true for any other geometric figure like triangles,
squares or rectangles.
We like to visit other countries to experience new scenery,
new foods and a different culture. It's fun to watch documentaries
about festivals that we don't have in North America. There is a great
deal of cultural diversity in the world that we can enjoy and celebrate.
But math is one thing that is common to everyone.
Different countries use different units of measurement; for example,
the United States and the United Kingdom use inches and feet while
the rest of Europe uses metric measurements of centimeters and meters.
But no matter what the units are, everyone must measure the house
that they are building. Houses everywhere, whether they are square,
rectangular or round, are built using the same mathematical equations.
The principles of probability are the same everywhere as well. The
chance of rain in Guatemala might be greater than the chance of rain
in the Sahara desert but probability works the same way. People around
the world have different genetics but the probability of passing on
genes to their children follows the same mathematical formulas.
It is easy to see that no matter how diverse different cultures
are, math is one common language across the world. Take a few minutes
to make a list of other ways that math is the universal language.