Introduction

The American Indians north of Mexico did not create highly developed civilizations like the Indians of Mexico, Central and South America. The more complex the civilization, the need for

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“Counting on fingers was nearly universal among Indian tribes” (Landon, 1993, p. MA5). With the five fingers on one hand and the twenty digits on combined hands and feet, the Inuit created a base five/base twenty system. The Salish, Algonquin, Sioux, Athabaskan, and Iroquois tribes used a base ten system that corresponds to the ten human fingers. The Caddoan and Nootka people used a base twenty system, extending counting to the toes. An interesting variation on using the hand for a number system is the base eight/base sixteen system used by the Yuki (Landon, 1993, p. MA5). The Chumash tribe used a base four/base sixteen system. Rather than counting the digits, these tribes counted the spaces between the digits. In any event, the number systems indicate “a one-to-one correspondence with hand and feet (Landon, 1993, p.

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The Aztecs developed compasses, squares, plumb levels, and applied geometry for their building and measurement. Not only did they need these instruments for engineering their cities and edifices, but also for precise land measurement for taxation purposes (Landon, 1993, MA29). In contrast, the Omaha used a stake and a rawhide strap to make circles. Other North American native people, the Kwakuitl made right angles and squares with a system of cords and pegs by finding midpoints and doubling. (Landon, 1993, p.