The primitive notion of numbers appears to have evolved from the many physical contrasts prevalent in nature - the difference between one tree and a forest, one sheep and a herd. Consequently, there was recognition of an abstract property shared by some groups: that ability to be placed in a one-to-one correspondence with each other. This property is what we now call number. Those groups which could not be placed in one-to-one correspondence did not share this property and are thus said to be different in number. Out of this realization of "sameness" was born the concept of number in mathematics.

The first known use of numbers dates back to around 30000 BC when tally marks were used by Paleolithic peoples. This system had no concept of place-value (such as in the currently used decimal notation), which limited its representation of large numbers. The first known system with place-value was the Mesopotamian with base 60 around 3400 BC and the earliest known decimal system dates to 3100 BC in Egypt.

The presently used arithmetic number system follows the Hindu-Arabic numeral system which is a positional decimal numeral system documented from the ninth century AD.

The first known use of numbers dates back to around 30000 BC when tally marks were used by Paleolithic peoples. This system had no concept of place-value (such as in the currently used decimal notation), which limited its representation of large numbers. The first known system with place-value was the Mesopotamian with base 60 around 3400 BC and the earliest known decimal system dates to 3100 BC in Egypt.

The presently used arithmetic number system follows the Hindu-Arabic numeral system which is a positional decimal numeral system documented from the ninth century AD.