Understanding how the Maya calendar works can be difficult for both young and old alike. Therefore, I have created a wonderful teaching aid that you can print out and make for free!
In this tutorial, you will learn to make the Maya calendar wheels and how to use them (you can use it as a resource for your KS2 class).
Just follow the instructions below, read about how the Maya calendar works and then test yourself!
You will need
A butterfly/ split pin
Instructions to make your own Maya calendar
Cut out each ring along its outside line:
Pierce a hole through the middle of each ring in the centre of the black dot:
Using the numbers 1-4 on the rings for guidance, place each ring on top of each other starting with 1 and ending with 4 (from largest ring to smallest):
and then add the smallest ring with the black line through it on top:
Place the split pin included through the middle of the calendar where you have made the holes and then open the pin up flat on the other side:
Now you have your own Maya calendar!
For younger children (under 7) just rings 3 and 4 can be used.
How the Maya calendar Works
The main Maya calendar, the calendar round of 52 years, actually consisted of 2 calendars that worked together. The first is the sacred calendar (Tzolkin) that is made up of 260 days (rings 3 and 4). If you want to know how to pronounce the word click here. This contained the numbers 1-13 and 20 day names (13 x 20 = 260). Every day was significant, similar to an astrology chart.
For example: 1 Imix, 2 Ik, 3 Akbal, 4 Kan to 13 Ben, then 1 Ix, 2 Men, 3 Kib and so on continuing in an endless cycle.
Notice that the Maya did not have numbers like ours, they only had three digits; a dot standing for ‘one’, a bar standing for ‘five’ and a shell for ‘zero’.
For example: 4 would be 4 dots
5 would be 1 bar
10 would be 2 bars
and 13 would be 2 bars and 3 dots
The second calendar is the solar calendar (Haab) that was made up of 365 days. Again, you can hear the how the word is pronounced – here. This contained 19 ‘months’ – 18 months of 20 days and a closing month of 5 days (Wayeb)
For example: 0 Pop would be followed by 1 Pop, then 2 Pop, up to 19, then it would be 0 Wo, 1 Wo and so on.
When these two calendars are working together, one day in this round such as 3 Kan 8 Pop did not repeat until 52 years passed, which was called the Calendar Round.
So you basically have a number + day + number + month.
Maya Calendar Quizz
1. If today is 1 Imix, 2 Pop what would be tomorrow?
1. Find 1, that is 1 dot, on nearest ring to your split pin, – you are working from inwards to outwards and line this up with your line marker so that you don’t lose your place
2. Find the glyph Imix on the second ring and line this up with the line marker and your dot
3. Find 2 (two dots) on the third ring and line this up with the 1 Imix
4. Find the Pop glyph on the fourth (largest) ring and line this up with the others – you should now have formed a straight line from the line marker – 1 Imix 2 Pop
5. To find out what the day would be tomorrow, you need to move the first two rings by 1 (in one day’s time) and line them up with the marker – you should have 2 Ik
6. Then move the third ring over by 1, remember you are moving forward, so the number needs to raise (anticlockwise) and line this up
7. Pop (the final ring) stays the same as remember a month lasts 19 days
So you should have 2 Ik, 3 Pop
Well done! You have just worked out a date in the ancient Maya calendar!
Want to try some more? (Answers at the bottom of the page)
2. If today is 6 Men 10 Yax, what would be the date in 2 day’s time?
3. If today is 6 Ben 2 Chen, what would have been the date 3 days’ ago?
4. If today is 9 Kib 11 Xul what would be the date in a week’s time (that is our week – in 7 days)
1. If you want to know the day in the future you will move the rings anticlockwise, if you want to know a day in the past you will move the rings clockwise
2. Remember there that the month (final ring) only changes when you arrive at the shell (zero)
3. Remember to work from the smallest rings to the largest
If you wanted to know what today’s date would be in the Maya calendar just go to the FAMSI website, which lets you input today’s date and it will give you the answer (see the last two glyphs on the right), then you can move the rings on your calendar to this date and your calendar now is in sync with our time!
If you want to buy the calendar in cardboard or in wood – click here
2. 8 Kaban 12 Yax
3. 3 Ok 19 Mol
4. 3 Akbal, 18 Xul