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Prince George’s Co. Library introduces young learners to ancient mathematics


The most advanced mathematical system of all ancient civilizations will be taught this week to students in Prince George’s County, Maryland.

This is part of WTOP’s ongoing coverage of the people who are making a difference in our community, written by Stephanie Gaines-Bryant. Learn more about this coverage.

Kelly Holley-Poole, the library associate who hosts the event, says participants will use some of the same objects that the Mayans would have used to learn math. (WTOP/Stéphanie Gaines-Bryant)

The most advanced mathematical system of all ancient civilizations will be taught this week to students in Prince George’s County, Maryland.

This Native American Heritage Month, the Largo Kettering branch of the Prince George’s County Library System announced it will help students learn Mayan math starting Tuesday evening.

Kelly Holley Poole, the library associate hosting the event, pointed out that we use a tens-based number system, while Mayan Math is a 20-based number system.

“So they have 1, 20, 400, 8,000, 160,000 and so on,” she told WTOP.

kelly holley poole mayan math
Kelly Holley-Poole, the library associate who hosts the event, says participants will use some of the same objects that the Mayans would have used to learn math. (WTOP/Stéphanie Gaines-Bryant)

Holley-Poole said she went to the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., to research how to do the calculation. She said it took her a little while to figure it out, but she finally got it and feels ready to pass that knowledge on to students.

Students will also use some of the elements that the Mayans used in their system.

“The shell represents 0, a stick to represent five and the beans or seeds to represent one,” she said.

Holley-Poole says the course is aimed at students ages 5 to 12 and their parents, but she says they invite teachers and younger students to join in celebrating Native American Heritage Month and continuing of the STEM initiative.

She said she hoped the children would also learn life lessons from the session.

“Math helps us with our logic skills and also helps us see patterns, so what I want kids to see is the patterns in how they do that math,” Holley-Poole said.

The event will take place on Tuesday, November 7 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Largo-Kettering Branch Library in the Largo Meeting Room located at 9601 Capital Lane in Largo.

Those with questions about these and other events can call 240-455-5451 or email Askalibrarian@pgcmls.info to learn more.


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