User menu
Main menu

Maya mathematics

60 second histories

This video covers:  A brief look at the Ancient Maya numbering system which was based on 20 rather than 10 like ours is now.

In order to work out astronomical cycles and create calendars the Maya people needed mathematics just as we do today. Our modern numbering system is based on ten but the Maya system of counting is based on twenty and we think this is because they counted on their hands and their feet as well so ten fingers and ten toes makes twenty. Their system used dots and bars instead of numbers, one dot equals one, two dots is two, then three and four, but five is represented by a rectangle called a bar. For six you have a bar with one dot above it, for seven a bar with two dots above, eight has three dots and nine has four, but to write ten you simply add another bar. So, if you had three bars that would be fifteen but if you add just one dot that would be sixteen, simple really. They had a different symbol for zero that was also used for twenty and on it goes but the higher the number goes the more complicated it becomes. This form of arithmetic was figured out by a man called Samuel Rafinesque, he was a bit of a genius I would say.
Ancient Maya
Indiana Joan
Key words: 
Maya, Ancient Maya, astronomical cycles, calendar, mathematics, numbers, twenty, system of counting, counting, dots and bars, dots, bars, Samuel Rafinesque, mayan, symbols, KS2, key stage 2, key stage 2 history, primary, KS2 videos, KS2 clips, KS2 history, KS2 videos, KS2 history film, KS2 history clip, Maya, Mayan, Ancient Maya, Ancient Mayan, Mexico, Y3, Y4, Y5, Y6, Year 3, Year 4, Year 5, Year 6, Mesoamerica