The Amazing Mayans

1The Mayan civilization dates back to 400 A.D. 2The Mayans were a large group of Central American Indians who lived mainly on the Yucat√°n Peninsula in Mexico.

3The Mayans were incredible mathematicians and astronomers. 4They kept elaborate calendars and were able to keep track of the movements of the moon, the sun, and Venus. 5They were also able to predict eclipses and the equinoxes with very accurate measurements.

6The Mayans had one of the most advanced number systems in the world. 7They could represent very large numbers by using only three symbols. 8Their number system was the first to include a symbol for 0 as a place value, while Europeans were still using the Roman numeral system.

9The Mayan number system is vigesimal, which means it uses base 20 instead of our decimal (base 10) number system. 10The Mayans used only three symbols (see diagram A), and their numbers were arranged vertically (see diagram B). 11Each step up was a power of 20, as illustrated below.


1. Write the number 500 using Mayan numerals.

2. Write the number 56,229 using Mayan numerals.

3. What is the next place value after 203 in the Mayan number system? a. 80 b. 8,000 c. 16,000 d. 160,000

4. Subtract the smaller number from the larger number. Show your work.

5. Compare the Mayan number system with our number system. What is the same? What is different? Use complete sentences to explain your thinking.