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Maya numbers are based around the number 20, so in Maya numbers , 20 is a 1 and a 0. So write a dot for the 1 and leave a gap below it. Then below the gap, draw a clamshell – the Mayan symbol for zero. To write numbers from 21–39, think of them as 20 plus something.

The Maya used the following names for their powers of twenty: kal (20), bak (400), pic (8,000), calab (160,000), kinchil (3,200,000) and alau (64,000,000).

The Mayan numeral system was the system to represent numbers and calendar dates in the Maya civilization. It was a vigesimal (base- 20 ) positional numeral system. The numerals are made up of three symbols; zero (shell shape, with the plastron uppermost), one (a dot) and five (a bar).

The first recorded zero appeared in Mesopotamia around 3 B.C. The Mayans invented it independently circa 4 A.D. It was later devised in India in the mid-fifth century, spread to Cambodia near the end of the seventh century, and into China and the Islamic countries at the end of the eighth.

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 Mayan system is in base 20 (vigesimal) rather than base 10 (decimal). This system also uses a different digit representation.

The Babylonian cuneiform method of recording quantities, approximately 5000 years old, is among the oldest numeral systems in existence. They developed a base-60 (sexidecimal) system with numbers less than sixty represented in base-ten.

Maya mathematics constituted the most sophisticated mathematical system ever developed in the Americas. The Maya counting system required only three symbols: a dot representing a value of one, a bar representing five, and a shell representing zero.

So where we learn to count on our fingers, Maya children counted on their fingers and toes. The numbers above nineteen are indicated on the basis of their vertical position. The Maya used a vigesimal ( Base – 20 ) system, so each position is a power of twenty .

Two thousand years ago, the ancient Maya developed one of the most advanced civilizations in the Americas. They developed a written language of hieroglyphs and invented the mathematical concept of zero. With their expertise in astronomy and mathematics, the Maya developed a complex and accurate calendar system.

Pyramids were used not only as temples and focal points for Maya religious practices where offerings were made to the gods but also as gigantic tombs for deceased rulers, their partners, sacrificial victims, and precious goods.

The Mayan civilization is generally dated from 1500 BCE to 1700 CE. The Yucatan Peninsula (see figure 16) in Mexico was the scene for the development of one of the most advanced civilizations of the ancient world. The Mayans had a sophisticated ritual system that was overseen by a priestly class.

Beginning in the 6th century BC with the Pythagoreans , with Greek mathematics the Ancient Greeks began a systematic study of mathematics as a subject in its own right. Around 300 BC, Euclid introduced the axiomatic method still used in mathematics today, consisting of definition, axiom, theorem, and proof.

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