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Maya Geometry in the Classroom - Conclusion - Resources

John C. D. Diamantopoulos (Northeastern State University) and Cynthia J. Woodburn (Pittsburg State University)


The classic Maya utilized geometry extensively in constructing their homes and buildings without the use of modern measuring devices.  By using simple knotted measuring cords, they were able to form right angles and rectangles with sides in special ratios which they noticed appearing in nature, especially in flowers.  These special ratios included square roots of small integers, as well as the golden mean.  Students today can use these same methods to explore and engage with geometrical concepts through hands-on activities, while at the same time gaining an appreciation of some of the mathematical contributions of the classic Maya civilization.


  1. Christenson, Allen J. (translator). Popol Vuh: Sacred Book of the Quiché Maya People, Electronic version of the original 2003 publication with commentary, 2007:
  2. Coe, Michael D. The Maya, Eighth Edition, Thames & Hudson, 2011.
  3. Common Core State Standards Initiative:
  4. Latin American Studies/The Maya:
  5. Maya Exploration Center:
  6. Mundo Maya: The Traditional House:
  7. Powell, Christopher. The Shapes of Sacred Space: A Proposed System of Geometry Used to Lay Out and Design Maya Art and Architecture and Some Implications Concerning Maya Cosmology, University of Texas at Austin, dissertation, 2010.
  8. Powell, Christopher. Sacred Geometry Lecture, 2011 MAA Study Tour.
  9. Tedlock, Dennis (translator). Popol Vuh: The Mayan Book of the Dawn of Life, Revised Edition, Simon & Schuster, 1996.

About the Authors

John C. D. Diamantopoulos is an Associate Professor in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at Northeastern State University in Tahlequa, Oklahoma.  He has been very active in the MAA, both at the section and national level.  His mathematical interests include ordinary differential equations, mathematics education and history of mathematics.  Diamantopoulos is also very active in his church, volunteering on computer productions/presentations and any area that needs attention.

Cynthia J. Woodburn is a University Professor in the Department of Mathematics at Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas.  She has participated in all of the MAA Study Tours since 2009.  Her research areas include computational commutative algebra and history of mathematics.  Woodburn is a handbell soloist and has a black belt in Chinese Kenpo karate.


John C. D. Diamantopoulos (Northeastern State University) and Cynthia J. Woodburn (Pittsburg State University), "Maya Geometry in the Classroom - Conclusion - Resources," Loci (August 2013)