It had never occurred to me before how mathematical symbols are more iconographic than symbolic. Take for example the symbol for ‘more or less’. When representing this by hand, you waggle your outstretched fingers from side to side. Expressed over time, this is exactly the same as the symbol ‘ ~ ‘.

The divide symbol ‘ ÷ ‘ is obviously a bunch on that side, a bunch on this side.

Similarly the ‘ – ‘ minus symbol is only missing an arrow to be a movement away from one of the numbers.

‘ + ‘ is a joining forces and strengthening. And ‘ x ‘… well that’s a touch incongrous, but if you do the ‘ * ‘ version as computers do (and it might have been how it started out, but then they reduced it since the parchment got too inky in the middle) then it makes more sense.

‘ < ‘ and ‘ > ‘ are obvious.

Ed Dowding

Ed Dowding

Founder, strategist, writer, gadfly, TED talker, world-record holder, and (foolishly) reality-TV farmer. DOES: Innovation, Product, Advocacy THINKS: Regenerative Systems, Institution design, 300 year horizons

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