Mathematics The Classic Maya had a particularly sophisticated system of numeration, in some respects more efficient than that of contemporary Europeans and other Native Americans. They used place-value numeration, based on a sign for zero-which they may have borrowed from Olmec civilization. This was a great intellectual achievement of ancient America. Their numerical unites were 1s, 5s, and 20s: 1s were designated by dots, 5s by bars, 20s by four bars, and multiples of 20 by a series of bars. In this system, the position of a number determined its value, making it possible for a limited quantity of symbols to express numbers of any size.