Math department seminar: Cinco de Maya: A Crash Course in Maya Mathematics

Title: Cinco de Maya: A Crash Course in Maya Mathematics

Abstract: May 5th is commonly known as Cinco de Mayo, a date in Mexican history that commemorates their victory over the French empire at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. To honor the occasion, we’ll be discussing the mathematical achievements of one of Mexico’s oldest civilizations, the Maya, who lived in southern Mexico and central America as early as 4,600 years ago.

In this crash course, we will introduce the Maya numeral system, which is simple enough to only require three symbols, yet powerful enough to represent large numbers easily and efficiently. We’ll observe how to perform basic arithmetic operations in their system (such as addition and multiplication), as well as how to extend their system to capture mathematical ideas that the Maya may have never used (such as rational and real numbers). Then, we’ll broaden our scope and take a brief tour of numeral systems throughout history and around the world, looking at their motivations, benefits, and disadvantages. By studying these numeral systems comparatively, we can improve our understanding of our own system of numbers, appreciate what makes the Maya system unique and useful to this day, and gain a deeper understanding of civilizations and cultures, past and present. Also, if time permits, we will see what makes the number 252 special.

Speaker: Hakim Walker, Harvard University

 This talk is intended for people of all mathematical backgrounds. No prerequisite knowledge is required.

Please contact Dr. Johanna Franklin at for the Zoom information.

Wednesday, May 05, 2021





Zoom Link
Online, NY 00000


Johanna Franklin

Phone: 516-463-5739

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