Decimal System, Zero, and Pi

Pi was first published in the Sulba Sutra in 600 BCE.

Students will come to learn Indian contributions to key mathematical systems and how important they were to the advancement of civilization.

Time Required
One class period

Handout: The Decimal System, the Importance of Zero, and the Value of Pi

Reading comprehension, critical analysis, ability to understand mathematical concepts and their importance to civilization.


  1. Give students a math problem to solve using only Roman numerals. Have them do the same problems with the so-called Arabic numerals (for example, MM x II versus 2000 x 2). Discuss the differences.
  2. Hand out and ask students to read The Decimal System and the Importance of Zero.
  3. Why is the decimal system so much easier to use? What is the importance of zero?
  4. Students are familiar with the Seven Wonders of the World.  Ask them to make a list of the seven greatest discoveries of the world.  Do the base-ten numerical system, numerals, and zero belong on the list? Why or why not?
  5. Go through step-by-step the Pi diagram in the Value of Pi handout so your students understand the process in which Pi was discovered.
  6. Discuss the importance of Pi. How can its value be determined? How important is this concept?
  7. Discuss the history of the concept of Pi. How is it still helpful to us today?