Numbers Through Time!


Meet Dr. Discrete. He wants you to accompany him on a journey that will explore the mysteries of four ancient civilizations and their methods of writing numbers. Your group will take four journeys and explore the Babylonian/Sumerian Numeration System, the Mayan Numeration System, the Egyptian Numeration System as well as the Roman Numeration System.


The Task

Complete all four journeys.  You must complete a travel log that includes the following:

bullet A creative cover page (illustrations, examples, and colorful work suggested)
bullet Pages 1-4 in your travel log should describe each Numeration system. Include a description of the history as well as some of the advantages and difficulties regarding each system. As you journey with Dr. Discrete, there will be questions to guide your description. Include those answers on these pages of your travel log.

Dr. Discrete Travels to Ancient Babylonia

The Babylonians wrote by pressing wedge-shaped symbols into soft clay tablets, which was then baked. Therefore, many have survived the ravages of time. Travel with Dr. Discrete to uncover ancient ruins.  As Dr. Discrete and you take your journey to learn more about Babylonian Math, look for the answers to the following questions. These should be included on page 1 of your travel log.

  1. What was the region called where the ancient Babylonian Math system was developed? What is that region called today? What was the approximate time period?
  2. What were the two main symbols used to record numbers?
  3. Define cuneiform and describe the process used to record numbers.
  4. What discoveries were made and are credited to this ancient time?

Sites to Journey

Old BabylonianMath         Cuneiform Numbers         Babylonia - The British Museum

Dr. Discrete Travels to Ancient Maya


Mayas built huge stone temples and pyramids, they lacked metal tools and didn't use the wheel or beasts of burden. But the early Mesoamericans fashioned tools harder than steel. Travel with Dr. Discrete to the Mayan ruins.

  1. What symbols were used by the Ancient Mayans? What base is the Mayan System?  Why did they choose this base?  How did placement affect the value of the number? What about the use of zero?
  2. Name two accomplishments of the Ancient Mayans that are still in use today when we think of numbers.
  3. Complete the Mayan Math game. Make sure to write the problem and name the role that you took.
  4. Identify the time period that the Ancient Mayans existed.
Sites to journey

Mayan Mathematics      Mayan Numerals          The Mayan Calendar          Mayan Number System

Calendric Count              Mayan Arithmetic          Mayan Math Game

Dr. Discrete Travels to Ancient Egypt

Pyramids, Pharaohs, Sphinxes and More!! Learn more as you journey with Dr. Discrete. 

Can you help Dr. Discrete uncover the answers to these questions on your travels to Ancient Egypt? Place these answers on page 3 of your travel log.

  1. Describe how the placement of symbols affected the value of a number. How was "zero" used or not used?
  2. Identify what materials were used to record numbers. What was the name given to the person who did the recording?
  3. Write their name in hieroglyphics using the Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphics site (There is a Hieroglyphic typewriter to help you).
  4. Try the Egyptian Numerals Rags to Riches game.  Record 3 questions and their corresponding results on your travel log.

Sites to journey

Egyptian Numerals          Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphics          Egyptian Numerals Rags to Riches


Dr. Discrete Travels to Ancient Rome

Friends, Romans - we journey to discover more. Roman Numerals are still used today - can you help Dr. Discrete find them? 

Dr. Discrete has learned so much. Finish your journey by visiting the sites listed below and answering these questions for page 4 of your travel log.

  1. List two places that Roman numerals are still seen today.
  2. Describe two methods that the Romans used to tell time.
  3. How does placement of the symbols affect the value of the numbers? What does a bar above a value represent?
  4. Try the two Roman Numeral Challenges and record the question and the result to 3 questions on each challenge in your travel log.
  5. Provide a brief description of the Roman Calendar.

Sites to journey

Roman Numerals      Roman Numeral Challenge 1         Roman Numeral Challenge 2         Telling Time in Ancient Rome

Modern Uses of Roman Numerals          The Roman Calendar


Congratulations!! Your journey with Dr. Discrete is complete. Dr. Discrete has learned so much about the numeration systems of these four Ancient Civilizations. There are many more aspects to study and Dr. Discrete hopes you will continue to journey on your own and learn much more.