The Mayan number system was developed by the ancient Maya civilization of Central America. Similar to the number system we use today, the Mayan system operated with place values. To achieve this place value system they developed the idea of a zero placeholder. The Maya seem to be the first people who used a place value system and a symbol for zero. Beyond these similarities there are some significant differences between the Mayan number system and our modern system. The Mayan system is in base 20 (vigesimal) rather than base 10 (decimal). This system also uses a different digit representation. The Mayan numbers are based on three symbols:
Why was Mathematics Important to the Mayans?
Mathematics was really important for the Mayans because they needed it to calculate astronomy and in the calendars. The Mayans Number System
The Mayans numeral is a base-twenty (otherwise known as vigesimal) numeral system which was possibly developed from counting on fingers and toes. How Their Number System Worked
Their addition and subtracting was simply adding up or taking away dots and bars. The Maya counting system had only three symbols: a dot representing the value of one, a bar representing a value of five and a shell representing zero. The mayan numbers were written from bottom to top, rather than horizontally. An Example Of How It Worked
Some examples of how it works is three was represented by three dots in a horizontal row; 19 was three bars with four dots on top; and 12 was two bars with two dots on top. Numbers that are larger than 19 were represented by the same kind of order, only a dot was placed on top of the number for each additional group of 20.
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