Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian

Maya Math Game


I am Itzamná, Maya Lord of Knowledge and Wisdom. I am here to tell you about my people, who were expert mathematicians.

The ancient Maya used mathematics to support many activities in their daily lives, from market transactions to predicting eclipses and making sophisticated calendar calculations. Maya mathematics is vigesimal, which means that instead of counting by tens, Maya math counts by twenties. Not long ago, traditional people in the Yucatán still used seeds, sticks and shells to make calculations.

Instead of the numbers 0 to 9,
Maya Math uses three symbols:
A dot represents the number 1 A dot represents the number 1 A dot represents the number 1 A stick represents the number 5 A dot represents the number 1 A shell represents the number 0
This system allows very large numbers to be written – and long periods of time to be recorded – and makes complex math possible. Now that you know something about Maya math, do you think you are ready for the challenge?
New at Maya math? Click here to learn the basics and receive help from me, Itzamná.
Are you ready?
Click here to accept my challenge.
Looking for an activity to do in the classroom? Click here to download a Maya math lesson.