Subject: Re: Is Zero a Whole Number?
Date: Thu, 10 Sep 1998 22:34:57 -0400
From: Alex Bogomolny

Dear Melisa:

I am pretty confident that a rare working mathematician would make a fuss about whether 0 is a whole number or not. Normally, in a paper, a fellow would simply make it clear whether 0 is included.

I believe there is a more or less standard usage:

  1. Counting numbers: 1, 2, 3, ...
  2. Whole numbers: 0, 1, 2, 3, ...
  3. Integers: ...-2, -1, 0, 1, 2, ...

However, I would rather devote a few words to the terminology in the beginning of a paper than depend on the reader to be of the same mind and upbringing.

For example, I find it convenient to call numbers 1, 2, 3, ... integers because the word integer may be used as both adjective and a noun and, as such, replaces two words expression "whole number" with a single word "integer". I do not have qualms about this either.

To sum up, I do not mind some terminological laxity provided it is locally specified. I would not think much of a textbook that does not clearly state the working terminology.

All the best,
Alexander Bogomolny

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