The Codex in Latin American History and Math


CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.6.RP.A.3 Use ratio and rate reasoning to solve real-world and mathematical problems, e.g., by reasoning about tables of equivalent ratios, tape diagrams, double number line diagrams, or equations

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.7.1 Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.

Technology required

Device with a browser for AzTech Game. Printer for printing codex and related worksheet and activity pages.


4-5 hours

Lesson Summary

This is an augmentation of a lesson from the Library of Congress uses a primary source – the Huexotzinco Codex – as a basis for document analysis, inquiry and applied mathematics. Students analyze pages documenting tribute paid to Spanish administrators, compute the tribute paid, read a one-page overview of the codex and analyze the codex. A presentation is given on connections between Aztec, Mayan and contemporary methods. Students begin or end classes playing a game that includes Mayan history and middle school mathematics.


First, some background for the teacher. The Huexotzinco Codex was part of the evidence in a case brought by the Nahuas, Indigenous people of what is now Mexico, against the Spanish administrators, alleging excessive taxation (tribute). This case was won by the Nahuas. In this lesson, students do not learn the full story until the third or fourth class period.

Analyze Documents

Begin with this link to the Library of Congress lesson, “The Huexotzinco Codex”, and have students complete Activity 1, Document Analysis. This should take one class period- approximately one hour.

NOTE TO THE TEACHER: Allow at least 30 minutes before using this lesson the first time, to read through the Library of Congress lesson, download and print out documents for students.

Play a game

Have students sign in and begin the game, AzTech: Meet the Maya. Students should play for about 15 minutes.

Computation – How much was the tribute?

Continue with the second part of Library of Congress lesson, “The Huexotzinco Codex”, and have students complete Activity 2, Computation. After students have completed one tribute sheet and corrected their answers, use this slide presentation to show the connection between the Aztec and Maya codices and our modern system of numbers and graphs. Optionally, have students complete one or two more tribute sheets from the linked lesson. This should take one to two class periods.

Play a Game

At the beginning of class, have students continue the AzTech: Meet the Maya game. Students should play for 15-20 minutes by which time some of the students should have reached the codex activity and explanation in the game.

Write a Narrative Explanation

Continue with the third part of Library of Congress lesson, “The Huexotzinco Codex”, and have students complete Activity 3, Narrative Explanation.


Four types of assessments are included; observation of student understanding of historical document analysis in the class discussion, student self-corrected math computation, student written assignments (analysis sheet, observations and scenario outlines) and the math problems in the AzTech game which are scored automatically with data available in teacher reports.

Differentiated instruction (optional)

Advanced Students who complete their assignments early can continue with the AzTech: Meet the Maya game. If they complete this game, they can choose to play AzTech: The Story Begins or AzTech: Empiric Empire.

English learners can play the AzTech : Meet the Maya and AzTech: The Beginning games in English or Spanish.

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