Mathematics Used by American
Condensed by Native Village
For the American Indians north of
number played an important
role in their religious beliefs. They
also used many geometric
figures in designs and in
ceremonies was widespread.
the most used number. This
may be due to the
was the mystical number of some
of the Pacific Coast Indians.
were sacred to the
was used by the Zuņi,
Cherokee, Creeks, and most of the
was adopted by the Hopi
Pawnee, and the Zuņi. It was also
widely used in Central America.
8 days for the
Snake Dance ceremony. There
of snakes found in a
days' hunt in the
An Apache prayed to his gods at
days. If possible, they prayed
times a day every day.
Apache remedies, medicine men used
herb, roots of
varieties, ... )
If a Potawatomi chief thought an
accused murderer was innocent, a pipe bearer would
bring flint and steel to light the
chief's pipe. If the pipe was lit within
flint strokes, the man went free. Otherwise,
he was executed.
influential man might get away with
murders, but nothing could save him
When smoking, the Iroquois
puffs from a pipe. Only
trials were allowed in physical
days or multiple
pass between the
announcement and the beginning of
Almost all Indian tribes counted on
their fingers. When counting,
sometimes the fingers were bent in,, other times the
fingers were extended.
Usually, both hands, beginning with
the left, were used to count 10. To get the next
tribes used the toes; others used
the fingers again. The Zuņi counted
the second 10 on their knuckles.
Tally marks (vertical strokes) were
used to denote 1. Grouping was not
generally evident. The Dakotas used
only the vertical stroke. The Creeks
also used this but a cross was used
Evidence of subtraction has been
found. In the Bellacoola
language of British Columbia:
= 1 man - 4
1 man - 2
1 man + 2 hands - 4
2 men - 4
Traces of multiplication are found Zuņi
= all the fingers
20 = 2 times all the fingers
100 = the fingers all the fingers
1000 = the fingers all the fingers
times all the fingers
Mounds and Other Earthworks
Most Indian mounds are found
in the eastern U.S.
built as early as 1000 BCE.
The practice seems to have ending in
about 1300 CE.
Most were conical.
The typical pyramidal
mound was a truncated
The largest, in
Illinois, is 100 feet
high and has a 700 foot base.
A Georgia mound built by
the Etowah Indians is the tallest
structure in the area -- about 61
top covers about an acre of land.
mound group as bases of circles,
squares, and octagons. All are
nearly accurate. One with a base of
900 feet has nearly perfect right angles
-- within one degree.
Serpent Mound was built in the 2nd
century BC. it measures 1,336 ft
long by 3-6 feet high. Spirals and
semicircles are part of a quite
regular wavy line.
is a quadrilateral pyramid and
almost accurate square with sides
pointing in the 4 directions.
It is part of Illinois' Cahokia mounds.
Cahokia is the largest pyramid
construction north of Mexico. At its
peak, between 30,000-50,000
people lived there.
Monk's mound once measured 954 ft
from North to South, and 775 ft from
East to West
The Sioux separated
designs into numerous
Woven blankets and
other objects of Indian
art throughout North
America have assorted
geometrical patterns and
Navajo pottery has
opposed sets of
line bordering dots,
hooked spirals, double
spirals, vertical and
horizontal lines, and
The Apaches used
Mojave used the hexagon.
have used circles and
combinations of lines.
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