According to Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hindu-Arabic_numeral_system#History, Indian scholars developed the symbols from which the numerals 1 - 9 are derived long before the Islamic era. They developed the decimal positional notational system in the 6th century C.E. (I.e., "thirty-three" is written with two 3's, instead of "thirty" and "three" having different symbols as in the earlier Greek and Hebrew systems.) Arabs and Persians adopted the system and the symbols in their then-current forms at the dawn of the Islamic era. Zero was represented by various awkward means, including a blank space, which to this former mathematician seems the most awkward of all. There's some controversy over who invented the symbol for zero, but the earliest documents in which it occurs seem to all be from India, toward the end of the first millennium C.E. These are now called Hindu-Arabic numerals. They were only used by mathematicians until fairly modern times. Merchants and other citizens used various older systems including that of the ancient Babylonians. Leonardo Fibonacci (he of the Fibonacci Series 1 2 3 5 8 13 21...) translated Arabic texts and brought the numerals to Europe in the 12th century, and they came into common use there in the 15th century. I don't know when they were adopted by non-scholars in India and the Middle East but Europe is credited with the first adoption by common folk. Today there are essentially three versions of the Hindu-Arabic numerals but they all derive from the same source. One is used in India, one in the Middle East, and one in Europe and Moorish Africa. Chinese uses a curious but basically satisfactory and efficient system that was influenced by its non-phonetic writing system. As we all know, English "thirty" is a mashup of "three tens." Chinese wrote this with the kanji for three ten so it is still pronounced that way. (There is no singular/plural paradigm in Chinese.) They read "1958" as "one thousand nine hundred five ten eight" and they write it with the characters for those words. It's not exactly a true positional notation because it would be difficult to use for math, but it does have only one series of ten numerals including a zero. Considering that they have a separate word for ten thousand, it works pretty well in common speech and they use our numerals for science and high finance.