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Multicultural Math: Lessons from the Mayas

Calendars, Pyramids and Numbers: The Mayas Had it All

Found in: Free Resources for Educators

The Maya are probably the best-known of the classical civilizations of Mesoamerica. Originating in the Yucatan around 2600 B.C., they rose to prominence around A.D. 250 in present-day southern Mexico, Guatemala, northern Belize and western Honduras.

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.

Lesson Plans, Activities and Ideas for your Classroom

  • Mayan Mathematics and Architecture (50 pages, 213 KB)
    Students in grades 5-8 explore Mayan mathematics and architecture in this cross-curricular unit of eight lessons.
  • Concepts in Number Theory
    Students in grades 9-12 learn basic Mayan arithmetic and develop an understanding of the Mayan calendar and Mayan mathematic achievements over three class periods.
  • Writing in Mayan Glyphs (45 pages, 2.96 MB)
    Using Chapter 2 in this PDF, students in grades K-12 can learn to write their names in ancient Mayan glyphs.
  • Why Civilizations Fall: Interpreting the Evidence
    Students in grades 6-8 explore factors that contributed to the collapse of the Mayan civilization and learn how archaeological evidence is gathered and interpreted.
  • Ancient Maya: Knowledge Through Art
    Students in grades 9-12 explore Mayan culture, and our knowledge of it through its art, architecture, and the heritage of modern Maya people.
  • A Classical Maya News Report
    Students in grades 9-12 explore the ancient civilization of the Maya during the classical period, from A.D. 300 to A.D. 900.

Background Resources

Online Activities




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