Characteristics of Mayan Numbers

In the course of history there are accounts of various numbering systems developed by great civilizations. The best known are: Egyptian, Babylonian, Roman, Chinese, our current system called decimal or Hindu Arabic, and that of the Mayan peoples.

The latter was adopted by the pre-Columbian civilization and consists of a vigesimal numbering system, that is, base twenty. According to historical accounts, the system is vigesimal because it is based on the sum of the numbers of fingers and toes.


The Mayan numeral system adopted by the pre-Columbian civilization of the Maya is a vigesimal numeral system , that is, it has a base of twenty . The origin of this counting base is the number of fingers adding the fingers and toes.

They used their fingers and toes to count.

In the Mayan number system, figures are based on symbols . The symbols used are the dot and the horizontal bar , and in the case of zero, an oval shell-like shape.

The sum of five points constitutes a bar, in this way, if we use the Mayan symbols to write the numeral eight, we will use three points on a horizontal bar.

The numbers 4, 5 and 20 were important for the Mayans, since they had the idea that 5 forms a unit (the hand) and the number 4 was linked to the sum of four units of 5, forming a person (20 fingers) .

The representation of numbers for the Mayans is subordinated to the conversion orders or levels, always based on 20 and its multiples .

According to history, the Mayan calculations were the first to use the symbology of zero in order to demonstrate a null value.

The organization of numbers in numerical houses is also assigned to the Mayan numbering system.


This town counted. This was proven by the discovery of a written number system. The notion of numbers not only helped in astronomy but also helped in the administration of the entire kingdom and, in the case of the Mayans, it was essential for collecting taxes from the tribes.

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