Mayan Number Counting

After my trip to Chichen Itza this past Spring, as I learned much more about their culture one aspect that stuck with me is how they counted. Compared to Western, and modern, civilization it’s extremely basic but allows for very high numbers all the same. Technically, you can make them as high as you want to go.

They use a base-20 counting system consisting entirely of three numbers: one (dot), five (bar), 20 (shell). You could technically say the shell does not count so much as a number but a placeholder that denotes exponential values of 20, and do not appear if the number in question is anything else. Each vertical block cannot contain more than a total of 19, and each successive vertical block’s value is 20 times higher than the previous. That’s it!

I’m not a mathematician in any respect, but I have always enjoyed this field. This particular method of counting really made me think, and I applied my knowledge of website design and programming to generate an interactive test for you to enjoy. The application will give you a random number between two and five digits, and your task is to drag and drop the corect amount of dots, bars, and/or shells into the correct boxes.

It is a beta, so some bugs may occur. It’s a long-term project and I may add addition and subtraction games to this in the future.

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