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History of Zero, Hindu-Arabic Numbers and Mayan Math

Page history last edited by Robert W. Maloy 1 year ago







Who Invented Zero?


  • Zero was invented independently by civilizations around the world


  What is Zero?



  • Carbon dating of an ancient Indian document, the Bakhshali manuscript, has recently placed the first written occurrence of the number zero in the third or fourth century C.E., about 500 years earlier than previously believed


  • The Babylonians used it as a placeholder, an idea later developed independently by the Mayans.


  • The Chinese, at some point in time, indicated it by an empty space in their counting-rod system.


  • The Hindus are generally acknowledged as being the first to formulate it as an independent number — the key to using it in mathematical calculations or binary code.



Mayan number combinations of 13 and 1



Mayan Numbers 


Maya Math


“The Maya mathematical system on which all this was based was incredibly advanced, and it was developed starting about 500 B.C.E."

  • Mayan numbers consist of a series of dots and bars, where dots have a value of one and bars represent five. ​


  • Our base 10 number system uses a decimal system based on powers of ten, i.e. 1; 10; 100; 1000; and so on.


  • The Maya also developed the concept of zero, which had immense benefit as a place-holder and vastly simplified basic arithmetic, along with making it possible to do more complex calculations that we use today.”



Solve Problems in Mayan Math from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian




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