Lesson: Mayan Math

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Lesson Objective

SWBAT recognize numbers in Mayan numerals and understand significance of Mayan mathematical sophistication.

Lesson Plan

 Anticipatory Set

What language is spoken in Mexico, Guatemala, Central America? (Use countries of origin if possible)
Did those peoples always speak Spanish?
(They were made to speak Spanish by Conquistadors)
What were the nations/languages there before?
What do you already know about the Mayas? 

The Mayas (your ancestors) had their own languages and their own writing, all of which were lost when the Spanish took over. But people have figured out how to read their numbers by looking at rock carvings and pyramids. 
Students observe Mayan digit guide and decipher patterns. Students share out loud/on white boards how to write various digits. 
Teacher shows symbol for zero (empty shell) and emphasizes that the zero was a novel idea of the Mayas. 

Guided Practice or Coaching + Checking for understanding
Students show their ages, addresses, number of students in the room, etc. in Mayan numerals on white boards. Students perform simple arithmetic, presented in Mayan, and display Mayan solutions. 
Independent Practice or Assignment

Students have a worksheet containing basic arithmetic problems in Mayan and work together to find and write solutions.

Assessment/Evaluation + Closure

Students describe in writing some systemic differences between our numerals (Arabic numerals) and Mayan numerals.

Extensions: Students can be introduced to Mayan place value (base 20) and can be challenged to perform more complicated arithmetic. Unit could be extended to include some Mayan hieroglyphs and a project wherein students display calculations related to Mayan history in Mayan numerals. 

Lesson Resources

Use the Mayan Number System   Activity
Mayas   Classwork


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