Search form

The End of the World? Discussing the Mayan Calendar With Students

Archaeologists and anthropologists are going out of their way to reassure everyone that the Mayan Long Count Calendar does not predict the end of the world.

long count calendarThe famous calendar, which has accurately chronicled the passage of time for thousands of years, ends on Dec. 21, 2012. Many believe the end date marks the apocalypse. Teachers can calm any fears students may have, and take solace themselves, in the fact that just about every expert on the subject has completely dismissed the end-of-the-world theory.

Alfredo Barrera, an archaeologist with Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History, told NBC that “Mayas did make prophecies…not in a fatalistic sense, but rather about events that, in their cyclical conception of history, could be repeated in the future.”

Similarly, University of Kansas Maya Scholar John Hoopes told NBC that apocalyptic predictions were not something in which the Maya engaged. Referencing the two most prominent Dec. 21 references in Mayan culture, Hoopes said, “In neither text were apocalyptic predictions made. But when westerners caught wind of the Mayan calendar, they mixed in their own end-of-the-world mythology.”

Apocalypse theories aside, the Mayan Long Count Calendar offers many great classroom learning opportunities. Teachers can explore the topic with students through a number of lessons and activities:

PBS’ Cracking the Maya Code
Students will see how scientists began to unravel the meaning of Maya glyphs and then determine their own birth date using the Maya Long Count calendar system.

PBS’ Lost King of the Maya
This lesson will teach students how to understand the Long Count System and how to apply it to our 12-month system.

The Exploratorium’s Mayan Calendar
In this activity, students will learn about the two calendars the Maya used. They will also solve the problem of how often the two cycles coincided.

Outreach World’s Mayan Math and Architecture
Middle schoolers will examine Mayan mathematics and architecture in this bundle of eight lessons.

Discovery Education’s Concepts in Number Theory
High schoolers will learn basic Mayan arithmetic and develop an understanding of the Mayan calendar and Mayan mathematic achievements.

Related resources

25 Ideas for Using EducationWorld Calendars
Lesson: Calendar Math
Happy New Year! Calendar-Based Lesson Ideas

Article by Jason Tomaszewski, EducationWorld Associate Editor
Education World®         
Copyright © 2012 Education World