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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.

Maya numbers , including calendar dates, were written from bottom to top, rather than horizontally. As an example of how they worked, three was represented by three dots in a horizontal row; 12 was two bars with two dots on top; and 19 was three bars with four dots on top.

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 Mayans had a sophisticated ritual system that was overseen by a priestly class. This class of priests developed a philosophy with time as divine and eternal. The calendar, and calculations related to it, were thus very important to the ritual life of the priestly class, and hence the Mayan people.

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.

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).

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.

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.

The Mayans called themselves , broadly, the Maya people after a major city called Mayapan on the Yucatan peninsula.

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.

The Maya were a smaller race of people with dark skin, dark eyes and straight black hair, but to them what was considered physically beautiful was not the way they were born, but a long sloping forehead and slightly crossed-eyes. The Maya would bind the newborn infant’s head between two boards for several days.

Mysterious Decline of the Maya From the late eighth through the end of the ninth century, something unknown happened to shake the Maya civilization to its foundations. One by one, the Classic cities in the southern lowlands were abandoned, and by A.D. 900, Maya civilization in that region had collapsed.

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