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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

U.S. Schools Already Teach Arabic Numerals

Q: Has California’s governor ordered public schools to use “ARABIC” numerals?

A: No. That claim originated on a website that describes itself as satirical.


Numbers from zero to nine — 0, 1, 2, 3, etc. — are commonly called Hindu-Arabic numerals.

The Hindu-Arabic numeral system was developed about 2,000 years ago, reportedly first in India, and then in Mesopotamia — which is where the modern-day countries of Iraq and Syria are located — before spreading to Europe and other parts of the world.

Schools in the United States, including California, already teach Hindu-Arabic numerals along with the alphabet. So, there’s no truth to a story circulating online with the headline: “California Governor Signs Order To Use ARABIC Numerals In Public Schools.”

Facebook users flagged the story as potentially false. It is.

The website that originally posted the bogus story, America’s Last Line of Defense, is part of a network of sites that describe its content as “satire” aimed at provoking conservative readers. The story also claims that California law now “requires that students in 4th grade learn about Islam and Sharia Law, saving Christianity for the 7th Grade.”

That network of websites frequently publishes stories about Islamic culture, which are often copied by other sites and re-posted without a satire disclaimer.

Recent examples that we’ve written about include a false story that the U.S. Supreme Court had banned public schools from teaching about Islam, and a made-up story about a mosque being raided in Michigan.

At least two sites — one called Times Feed and one called USA Politics Feed — republished the phony story about Hindu-Arabic numerals without a disclaimer.

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to help identify and label false stories flagged by readers on the social media network.


Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Development Of Modern Numerals And Numeral Systems — The Hindu-Arabic system.” Accessed 16 Mar 2018.

University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. “Ancient History Math Mystery.” Accessed 19 Mar 2018.

California Governor Signs Order To Use ARABIC Numerals In Public Schools.” TheLastLineOfDefense.online. 13 Mar 2018.

Hale Spencer, Saranac. “Teaching About Islam Hasn’t Been Banned.” FactCheck.org. 29 Jan 2018.

Hale Spencer, Saranac. “Bogus Claim on Mosque Raid.” FactCheck.org. 12 Jan 2018.

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“California Governor Signs Order To Use ARABIC Numerals In Public Schools.”
Tuesday, March 13, 2018