Mayan numeration system
The Mayan numeration system evolved around A.D. 300. It is a sophisticated system as you will see below.
It uses 3 basic numerals to represent any possible number: a dot for one, a horizontal bar for 5, and a conch shell for zero.
They used the 3 symbols above to represent the numbers from 0 through 19 as shown below:
For number bigger than 19, a number is written in a vertical position so that it becomes a vertical place value system
Initially, the base used in the Mayan numeration system was base 20 and their place values were 1, 20, 20
^{2},20
^{3}, ...
Then, they changed their place values to 1, 20, 20 × 18, 20
^{2} × 18, 20
^{3}× 18, ...
Using the base 20, 1, 20, 20
^{2},20
^{3}, ..., we can write 20 as follow:
In the ones place we have 0 and in the twenties place we have 1, so the number is 0 × 1 + 1 × 20 = 0 + 20 = 20
Still using a base of 20, we can write 100 as follow:
0 × 1 + 5 × 20 = 0 + 20 = 100
Here is how to represent 2007
5 × 20
^{2} + 0 × 20 + 7 = 5 × 400 + 0 + 7 = 2000 + 7 = 2007
How do we know which number is in what place value?. This is complicated part in the Mayan numeration system
Starting from the bottom, a place value must have a number from the list above(119)
Tease your brain with the following number. What is it?
Look carefully and see how I separated the place values
Again, I separated according to numbers that are the list above from 1 through 19
The number is: 14 + 7 × 20 + 1 × 20
^{2} + 3 × 20
^{3} + 0 × 20
^{4} +
15 × 20
^{5} + 5 × 20
^{6}
The number is 14 + 140 + 1 × 400 + 3 × 8,000 + 0 + 15 × 3,200,000 + 5× 64,000,000
The number is = 14 + 140 + 400 + 24,000 + 0 + 48,000,000 + 320,000,000 = 368024554
With the base 1, 20, 20 × 18, 20
^{2} × 18, 20
^{3}× 18, ... computation is done the exact same way!
Group as shown below:
The number is 11 × 1 + 1 × 20 + 10 × 20 × 18 = 11 + 20 + 3600 = 3631
No doubt, the Mayan numeration system was sophisticated

Mar 13, 19 11:50 AM
Learn how to derive the equation of an ellipse when the center of the ellipse is at the origin.
Read More
New math lessons
Your email is safe with us. We will only use it to inform you about new math lessons.