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Cultural-Historical Psychology

Publisher: Moscow State University of Psychology and Education

ISSN (printed version): 1816-5435

ISSN (online): 2224-8935

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17759/chp

License: CC BY-NC 4.0

Started in 2005

Published quarterly

Free of fees
Open Access Journal

Affiliated ISCAR

 

The Vigesimal Numeral System: Another Logic for Constructing and Using Amounts in the Maya Culture’s Community Practices 1395

Micalco M.
PhD candidate, Center for Basic Research, Politecnic Institute Of Mexico, Master, Mexico, Mexico
e-mail: mmicalco@gmail.com

Abstract
This study is situated in the Maya region of the state of Chiapas, in southern Mexico. The schools in the region do not take into account the numerical knowledge that students acquire in their community. Children arrive at school with mathematical skills based on the vigesimal numeral system. This ethnographic study attempts to discover the logic of the vigesimal numeral system in community practices, including buying and selling at the public market, planting and harvesting corn and coffee, and producing embroidered items. The historical and cultural perspective [22] is a basic reference for analysis in the study. While some studies focus on mathematical procedures within cultures [21, 5, 18, 7], and others center on the Maya culture’s written expression [19, 12, 1, 11], no previous studies have looked at mathematical knowledge based on oral elements. The results of analysis show that the vigesimal numeral system has a specific logic that is evident in various aspects, such as the construction of names of amounts, commercial transactions, and the women’s calculations for embroidery work. A unique aspect of this logic is the relation the Maya people make between the human body and their names for numbers. Also unique in the Maya’s use of the vigesimal numeral system is the way they construct phrases while buying and selling products in the market: they use both languages and two different numeral systems to construct a single phrase.

Keywords: Numeral system; community practices; culture; oral

Column: Crosscultural and Ethnopsychological Researches

For Reference

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