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Mayan Numerals

The Ancient Mayan number system was unique, intelligent, and far ahead of its time.

Map of the area were the Mayan Numerals were used (this is a modern map with ancient city’s on it).

The Mayan Numerals were used around the fourth century AD around the same time that China invented the stirrup.

The Mayan numerals were easy to use. They were different from the system we use now because the Mayan numerals went in 20’s which is different from our system in which go’s in 10’s. Here is chart of the numbers from 1-19.

The numbers are simple. There is a dot which is equal to one and a horizontal line which equals five. So for 13 you would have three dots above two horizontal lines.

Did you know that the numbers change when used in the Mayan Calendar?

Here is why:

Instead of the numbers going up in twenty like the rest of the numeral system it goes up in 18’s for the reason that 18 x 20 = 360 which is 5 days of the real year!

But things start to get a bit more complicated as soon as you use numbers from 20 onwards. Numbers add more dots on top for example I am going to use the numbers 29, 100 and 472.

In case you did not understand that chart, where it says 20’s for example every dot on that line would be worth twenty.

Have a guess what number this would be. The answer on the next page.

The answer of the question on the previous page is 14, 49.

The ancient Mayans were astronomers and they used this ancient number systems to calculate the solar calendar which is one day off every four years! Historians believe that they had one of the very first solar calendars. They carved these solar calendars in stone like this picture.

The Mayans did use their number system for trade because it was easy to use when selling a big amount of product. The Mayans grew their own food and made their own equipment. The system was also used to buy and sell goods locally.

The Mayan number system spread fast through trade. Traders took it everywhere even to Aztec cities. Almost everyone knew the system and it was one of the few things all kids learnt. Writing and reading was only learnt by more upper class people. The number system was used around the area which is displayed on the first page.

I chose to compare the Mayan numeral system to the Ancient Egyptian numeral system because I would like to see how two different systems could be the same.

Here are the advantages of the Mayan system:

  1. The Mayan system has just dots and lines so they are easy to remember.
  2. It is easy to learn.

Here are the disadvantages of the Mayan numeral system.

  1. It is extremely hard to do sums both addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.
  2. It is hard when you see the number to convert into modern day numerals.
  3. When you write the numbers they take up a lot of space.
  4. The numerals have to be in an order.

Here are the advantages of the Egyptian system

  1. They are small and easy to write.
  2. The order of the numerals doesn’t matter.
  3. Adding and subtracting are faster that the Mayan.

Here are the disadvantages of the Mayan numeral system.

  1. With long numbers it uses a lot of room horizontally.
  2. It is not that easy to learn.
  3. Some of the symbols take a while to write.
  4. It is hard to convert the ancient Egyptian numerals into modern numerals.

Although the Egyptian numeral system lasted longer than the Mayan numeral system, That is only because the Mayans were conquered by the Spanish if it was not for that who knows what might of happened.


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User Comments
  1. Doctor J Henry

    On April 10, 2008 at 5:32 pm

    This has been most usefull for my Math class.

  2. nobody

    On February 21, 2009 at 11:42 pm

    u stuffed up the second last paragraph

  3. nobody

    On February 21, 2009 at 11:43 pm

    i think u did at least

  4. nobody

    On February 22, 2009 at 12:18 am

    i like it


    On February 24, 2009 at 9:36 am



    On February 24, 2009 at 9:38 am

    but it needs more numerals (-_-) or else it is awesome

  7. heeheeheehahahahohoho

    On February 25, 2009 at 2:17 am

    Ya, the second last paragraph has a typo. It needs “Egyptian”, not “Mayan”!

    Other than that, awesome site!

    Luv ya all, ME!

    Mwah! :D

  8. person

    On March 7, 2009 at 6:17 pm

    I it has helped a bit but i still need to know how to write 1000 and 10000

  9. asad

    On March 14, 2009 at 6:35 pm


  10. Annoymous'Sorry'

    On March 16, 2009 at 7:50 pm

    Other then stuffuing up the last part. i dont understand till now if i want to write a 4 digit number and a 3 digit number in the mayan numeration system for eg: how can i write 1328 & 217 in the mayan system. please post a reply asap as i need to know for an assignment.

  11. random

    On March 20, 2009 at 10:10 pm

    its a really good article and helped me understand how the system works heaps.
    annoymous, there’s a site that calculates numbers from hindu-abrabic into mayan. its really good

  12. random

    On March 20, 2009 at 10:11 pm

  13. random

    On March 20, 2009 at 10:13 pm

    soz not sox

  14. bhert

    On March 28, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    Not bad, but you messed it up ( the 2nd paragraph):D :P

  15. HOLE

    On March 28, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    YOU have tips touching! 3 balls! In the HOLE! :D

  16. kittykat.mail

    On April 7, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    This is very interesting. But I thought that the third place value number was 360, not 400. Thanks.

  17. me

    On May 5, 2009 at 4:30 pm


  18. dogsandme

    On May 5, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    what the heck is that little yellow thing sweeping next to the mayan numerals? like, totally, like, dudes……..

  19. tx

    On June 3, 2009 at 5:49 am


  20. NOYB

    On June 9, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    When u make 23, do u put, 3 dots on the bottom then 1 dot on top of the second dot or do u put the dot on top of the 3rd dot?

  21. hi

    On July 8, 2009 at 5:44 am


  22. nicki

    On July 13, 2009 at 9:47 am

    bakit walang 1000

  23. hjghgjhgh

    On July 16, 2009 at 12:25 am


  24. MONICA

    On September 9, 2009 at 7:45 pm


  25. kelly

    On September 17, 2009 at 7:35 am


  26. PEN Friend

    On September 17, 2009 at 7:40 am

    Who wants to be my pen friend ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????
    just say ya me! and tell me ya email address! :)

  27. MEOW2

    On January 11, 2010 at 9:54 pm

    it help me and my group to doing our ISL…


  28. Natasha

    On March 11, 2010 at 12:37 am

  29. Jasmine

    On April 3, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    I dont really get it. Dont like it that much. I guess its alright. Thanks anyway…

  30. blah

    On April 11, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    This was really helpful for me but it needs to go intill 40 i guess.

  31. aaaaaaa

    On May 10, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    bitches asses

  32. someone

    On May 15, 2010 at 10:24 am

    wow. this is extremely helpful. I’ve been needing history on the Mayan number system for a math project. So glad you included that, because this is the most helpful website I’ve found yet!

  33. Joe

    On January 30, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    Your example on 29, 100 and 472 is wrong.

  34. bob

    On September 16, 2012 at 6:58 pm


  35. Asher

    On September 16, 2012 at 7:03 pm

    this website is terrible and you stuffed up the last paragraph.

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