Distributions and Mayan Trading


7.SP.A.1 Understand that statistics can be used to gain information about a population by examining a sample of the population; generalizations about a population from a sample are valid only if the sample is representative of that population. Understand that random sampling tends to produce representative samples and support valid inferences.

Minnesota State Standard – History Sub-strand 4, Standard 15 “North America was populated by indigenous nations that had developed a wide range of social structures, political systems, and economic activities, and whose expansive trade networks extended across the continent.”


20- 30 Minutes 

📲Technology Required

Device with web-browser – Chromebook, laptop or desktop computer, phone or tablet


The two videos here combine math and social studies, because, clearly, the Maya understood math. The concept of distributions is introduced in the context of trading, explaining why some objects are more valuable. Students play AzTech: Meet the Maya, which teaches measures of central tendency. The lesson concludes with a question and another video on distributions.

📚Lesson Plan

1. Watch video – Mayan Trading (1:57)

The Mayan trading video is based on an idea from one of my favorite history teachers, who says that history is more than just names and dates but also how people lived, what they used, what they did. It also has a bar chart of the relative value of objects. It explains that the Maya traded less common items for more common ones and that items that were more difficult to obtain were more valuable.

2. Play AzTech: Meet the Maya

Next, have students start the AzTech games series. They can play AzTech: Meet the Maya online or using an iPad. We recommend downloading the game onto your iPhone or iPad for better performance.

3. Question to test understanding

José tried to trade a banana for a quetzal feather and a villager threw a spear at him. Why would the villager do that? Explain using math. Extra points if you can discuss distributions in your explanation.

4. Video giving the answer to the word problem on distributions (5:15)

This five-minute video introduces distributions and variability and gives an example of computing a weighted mean from a frequency distribution.

OPTIONAL You can also copy this Google slides presentation to your own classroom if you’d rather modify the explanation for your own lecture. The slides can also be printed out and sent home with students who do not have Internet access.


You can view your students’ progress on mastering these standards by viewing your teacher reports. The link to the teacher dashboard for AzTech: Meet the Maya student reports can be found on this page. You should have received a password during the Growing Math training.

State Standards

Minnesota State Standard – Determine the sample space (set of possible outcomes) for a given experiment and determine which members of the sample space are related to certain events. Sample space may be determined by the use of tree diagrams, tables or pictorial representations.

Related Lesson

Distributions and Mayan Trading (Bilingual English & Spanish) – This lesson is a bilingual version of the lesson above and features resources in English and Spanish.

3 thoughts on “Distributions and Mayan Trading

  1. Pingback: Reading & comparing bar graphs

  2. Pingback: Reading and Comparing Bar Graphs - Educational Resources for Grades 3-8

  3. Pingback: Distributions and Mayan Trading (Bilingual English & Spanish) | Growing Math

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *