Decimal system is a way of writing numbers. Any number, from huge quantities to tiny fractions, can be written in the decimal system using only the ten basic symbols 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 0. The value of any of these symbols dep ends on the place it occupies in the number. The symbol 2, for example, has totally different values in the numbers 832 and 238, because the 2 is in different places in each of the numbers. Because the value of a symbol depends on where it is placed wit hin a number, the decimal system is known as a place-value system.

The word decimal comes from decem, the Latin word for ten. The decimal system received its name because it is a base-ten system. The value of each place is ten times greater than the va lue of the place just to its right. Thus, the symbols on the left of a number have larger values than symbols farther to the right. For example, the symbol 2 in 238 is worth much more than the symbol 2 in 832, because the 2 in 238 is farther to the left than is the 2 in 832.

The decimal system is also called the Hindu-Arabic system. It was developed by Hindu mathematicians in India more than 2,000 years ago. Arabs learned this system after conquering parts of India in the AD 700's. They spread knowle dge of the system throughout their empire, including the Middle East, northern Africa, and Spain.