Pupils are able to offer at least 2 valid reasons for its growth e.g. Mayans knew how to grow crops like maize (slash and burn technique) and irrigate fields, and how to hunt e.g. for deer, and to trade.
The more able grasp how many of these ideas must be speculative. More able can make links with the growth of the Roman Empire studied earlier and with Ancient Egypt, which had the Gift of the Nile, whereas the Maya had to contend with jungle and mountain.
Having established the reasons why people think the Mayan civilization was so significant at that time, it is important to explain why the empire was able to grow to be so important. This is all the more remarkable when you consider the geography of the area. It is worth revisiting the map shown earlier, reproduced again on side 2. Stress the unpromising terrain: jungle and mountain. Bring in any maps or atlases you have in school to emphasise the harshness of the terrain and the difficulty of cultivation.
Start the main task by asking pupils to speculate. Can they think of any reasons why it might have been