Ancient Maya Math Pack

Wow, this turned into a labor of love! A few task cards I whipped up one evening before giving my kids a lesson on Ancient Maya counting kept growing and turned into 50 pages of information and cards! My kids LOVED this Ancient Maya Math Pack. They used and tested all these resources (in fact, my 10 year old helped me write the content – more on that later) and were very much the inspiration for the addition and subtraction cards. This pack also comes with a bonus – Bul gameboard and instructions. Bul is an ancient Mesoamerican board game played by the Maya.

Let’s break the pack down and take a look inside. The pack has three main sections. The first introduces the Maya numerals. Since the Maya used a base 20 system, they have numbers for 0 though 19. The pack includes a full page explanation, control chart, and matching cards.

You can print the matching cards either single or double sided. Paired with a box of shells, sticks, and stones they can be used as a hands on work, building the numbers and checking work. They can be used as flash cards, or printed single sided they can be used to play a memory game. So many options!

The second section is all about place value. Just like us, the Maya used a place value system to represent large numbers. Whereas our numbers grow to the left, Maya numbers grew by using “steps.” Again, a full page set of instructions is included. Also included are a work mat and task cards. The task cards can be used to build numbers sensorially, to evaluate the value either with a material or on paper, or to look at the decimal value and try to convert to the Maya representation. I paired this work with a larger work mat drawn on a piece of 9×12 construction paper and a box of natural materials. If you prefer to use the printed work mat, printable shells, stones, sticks and Maya numerals can be found at the end of the Ancient Maya Math Pack.

By the time we got to place value, my older daughter was enjoying the work so much she asked for other follow up options. Since, at that point, I decided to make addition and subtraction cards, I asked her to write up whay she knew about Maya numbers so far. She ended up writing up sets of instructions for the numerals, place value, AND addition & subtraction! I adapted her work into the information sheets for this. Since she did quite a chunk of work, I’ll be splitting all sales with her! She’s really thrilled to have been part of this.

The third section of this packet contains information about Maya addition and subtraction, work mats for each operation, and sets of task cards for each operation. Maya addition and subtraction works much in the same way as our decimal system, the difference being that the Maya make exchanges for each 5 (5 stones = 1 stick) and for each 20 (4 sticks = 20, which means placing a stone in the next place value.) Subtraction can be done by removing sticks and stones and then exchanging as needed to discover what’s left. There is at least one static card for each operation, but most cards are dynamic, meaning they require exchanges.

Finally, at the end of the pack are printable shells, sticks, and stones to use with numerals building. Also included are smaller sized numerals to use in operations as needed.

At the end of the pack, I’ve included a bonus! My kids love playing games from the cultures we study. Ancient Egyptian Senet was a huge hit, and the ancient Mesoamerican game of Bul is somewhat similar. It was played all over Mesoamerica and is still played today. It’s quick, easy to learn and all you need besides the instructions and game board are 5 flat counters for each player (we used pennies and dimes), and four kernels of corn colored black on one side. We had a lot of fun playing!

Everything you need to introduce Ancient Maya math is included in this pack. Enjoy!