Representing 1, 2 and 3 in as many lines as the number represented worked well.  The Brahmin Indians simplified 4 by joining its four lines into a cross that looks like the modern plus sign. The Shunga would add a horizontal line on top of the numeral, and the Kshatrapa and Pallava evolved the numeral to a point where the speed of writing was a secondary concern. The Arabs' 4 still had the early concept of the cross, but for the sake of efficiency, was made in one stroke by connecting the "western" end to the "northern" end; the "eastern" end was finished off with a curve. The Europeans dropped the finishing curve and gradually made the numeral less cursive, ending up with a glyph very close to the original Brahmin cross.
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