This would make it much easier to express common values (such as 289, or 83,521) since they could be written as 10, or 1,000. Basically, their multiples of seventeen would be just as easy for them as multiples of ten are for us.
This raises the obvious question, what single digits would they use for the values ten through sixteen?
All of this assumes, of course, that Dragaerans use a arabic-style digital numbering system--which is far from certain.
It's hinted that the Dragaeran written language is ideographic, so the numbers probably use ideographic symbols we've never seen before. They could be combined "digitally" like arabic numerals or using connectors in the powers of the radix as the numbers in the Chinese ideography, or spoken English are.
Example: 4913 = 四千九百一十三 = 四(4)千(1000)九(9)百(100)一(1)十(10)三(3) The 一 would be dropped before the 十 if there weren't more before it.
If we wanted to do math with radix 17 IRL, the easiest way would be to do it the same way as we usualy do radix 16 and use latin letters, in this case, A (10) through G (16).
As far as we know, Dragaerans still have 10 fingers and maybe they developed their number system before realizing the importance of 17 or stole it from the Easterners, they could just get really good at remembering powers of 17 and related numbers in radix 10 the same way people who spend too much time with computers can remember that 2^(2^3*3) is 16,777,216.
- I don't agree that "it would make sense to assume that Dragaerans use base-seventeen mathematics". Peoples [sic] talked about numbers for hundreds or thousands of generations before any of them developed writing or any theory of mathematics.
- In English we occasionally use "dozen", and less often its square and cube ("gross" and "great gross"), because it's convenient (12 divides evenly by 2, 3, 4, and 6); but almost all of our number language, as well as our notation, is decimal. The Babylonians, though, used base 60 (same reasoning as 12), and the Maya used base 20 (fingers + toes).
- Mark Mandel, proprietor, Cracks and Shards 00:39, July 11, 2010 (UTC)
The base a culture uses for its numerical system has nothing to do with whether it has developed written language or how advanced its knowledge of mathematics is. Any society needs to be able to express numerical values, and unless it feels like creating a unique word for every single number (obviously inconvenient), it needs a system for representing large numbers by combining smaller ones in various ways. On Earth, this has most often resulted in a decimal (base 10) system, with some examples of base 12 and base 20 (Sumerian mathematics, which the Babylonians inherited, aren't actually base 60, but use an alternating system of 10s and 6s: 1-10, 10-60, 60-600). Thus, for example, english "thirty-four": "three tens and four". If Dragaerans do use a base 17 seventeen system, they would say the equivalent of "two seventeens".