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Chichen Itza… A Mathematical Enlightenment

I recently visited Cancun, Mexico and decided to take a tour of Chichen Itza in Yucatan Peninsula (Pictures posted are courtesy of me).  My friend of 20+ years visited Chichen Itza and made the recommendation (thanks Margie).  I did my research and booked the tour.  I was in for a wonderful surprise! 

Although Chichen Itza is breath-taking, and is one of the New 7 Wonders of the World, what piqued my interest the most is the Mayan contributions to math and their use of math in building El Castillo – The Kukulcan Pyramid.

Here is one really basic fact: there are 4 faces on the pyramid with 91 steps on each face (364 steps).  The top platform counted as a step makes 365 steps in all, the number of days in our calendar year (not including leap year, of course).

We often hear, very loosely, about the contributions ancient civilizations made to math, but we rarely have the opportunity to experience the reality of those contributions.  It was a fantastic vacation and an enriching mathematical experience for me.  Hopefully, I will have the opportunity to visit similar ruins throughout my lifetime.

Have you visited Chichen Itza or another ancient ruin that inspired you?  Please share you experience.

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