Counting in Roman Numerals

In the Roman numeral system, which number does LIV represent?

And the answer: 54.        

In the Roman numeral system, the letter L represents the number 50, while the letters IV represent the number 4. Add them together, and you have 54.

Photo credit: EDUARDO MUNOZ/VIEWPRESS/GETTY. 

Roman numerals might seem archaic, but their form actually lends itself to common place and commercial use even today. And naturally so – Roman numerals have been around since Ancient Rome (and perhaps even before then), thus the counting system has had plenty of time to evolve.

However, Roman numerals don't come without their own set of rules. For example, the letters I, X, C can be repeated thrice in succession, but L, V, and D can not be repeated or else the value is considered invalid. (Romans didn't like to use more than three identical numerals sequentially to represent a number.) Below are a list of rules unique to the Roman numeral system of counting:

I. If a lower value digit is written to the left of a higher value digit, it's subtracted.

II. If a lower value digit is written to the right of a higher value digit, it's (you guessed it!) added.

III. Only I, X, and C can be used as subtractive numerals.

And, if you'd like to convert Roman numerals to numbers, there are even more rules:

I. To multiply a number by a factor of 1,000, a bar is placed over it.

II. A letter holding a lower value that is placed to the left of a higher value number results in the subtraction of the smaller number from the larger one.

III. A letter holding a higher value that is placed to the left of a lower value number results in the addition of both values.

As you can imagine, this is hardly an exhaustive list. Learn more about Roman numerals here.


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