Counting the Maya Way – The Finger Method

Simple calculations can be made using your fingers with the Maya vertical vigesimal system without grids, beans, or bars. If we were conducting trade or simply needed to do some simple and quick math, gathering slaves to help count using their fingers and toes is not very convenient.  Plus, what if we were a lower status merchant or priest and didn’t have any slaves to help us count. Making a quick “grid system” on the ground would work, but we’d still have to gather sticks and stones to do the…

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The ‘Four Slave’ Example How the Maya count to 8000

Four Slave

The ancient Maya used a mathematical system that is “vigesimal.” A vigesimal counting system is based on 20 units (0 – 19), instead of the 10 unit (0 – 9) based counting system that we use today called the decimal system. The vigesimal counting system used by the ancient Maya made counting high numbers extremely easy, even when one could not count very well – or at all. In the “Four Slave” example, we make the assumption that the ancient-era individual counting is using the fingers and toes of four…

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