History of Mathematics

Dr. Sarah J. Greenwald and Dr. Gregory S. Rhoads

By learning mathematics within the context of its historical progression, students develop a greater appreciation for connections between various disciplines of mathematics and the dynamical nature of the subject. By investigating the mathematical contributions of people in other lands and times, students will see mathematics as a discipline for everyone that transcends culture, time, race, and gender. In this course, we will examine the history of algebra, geometry, number theory, calculus, differential equations, linear algebra, statistics, and other areas of mathematics and learn about the culturally diverse mathematicians who worked in these areas. Students will be expected to complete projects to illustrate their understanding of the theoretical ideas in these areas and to communicate these ideas to a lower level audience. These projects could include research reports, classroom activities, presentations, or problem sets. The course is 3 credit hours and will meet for all 15 weeks. As this course is cross-listed with the 2-hour course MAT 3010, there will be days where only graduate students will attend. On these days, we will look at graduate level material that will be above the expectation of the typical undergraduate. On the days where both undergraduate students and graduate students will attend, graduate students will be expected to go more deeply into the mathematics and will have additional assignments and different tests to reflect the difference in level.

Asking questions, and explaining things to others, in or out of class, is one of the best ways to improve your understanding of the material. We will promote an environment in which everyone feels comfortable asking questions, making mistakes, offering good guesses and ideas, and is respectful to one another. Turn in projects or prepare to present problems even if it they are not complete, even if only to say, "I do not understand such and such" or "I am stuck here." Be as specific as possible. When writing up work, be sure to give acknowledgment where it is due. Submitting someone else's work as your own (PLAGIARISM) is a serious violation of the University's Academic Integrity Code.

In this course, you will be challenged with problems that you have never seen before. We do not expect you to be able to resolve all the issues immediately. Instead, we want to see what you can do on your own. Out in the real world, this is important, since no matter what job you have, you will be expected to seek out information and answers to new topics you have not seen before. This may feel uncomfortable and frustrating. We understand this and want to help you through the process. It helps to remember that there are no mathematical dead-ends! Each time we get stuck, it teaches us something about the problem we are working on, and leads us to a deeper understanding of the mathematics.

In the real world though, you are not expected to face your work alone. You will be allowed to talk to other people and you may even be expected to work with other people. In this class, you are also not expected to face your work alone. We are always happy to help you in class, during office hours (or by appointment), or on the WebCT bulletin board, and will try to give you hints and direction. At times though, to encourage the exploration process, we may direct you to rethink a problem and come back to discuss it later. It is important to not only understand the correct solution and why it works, but also to understand why other potential solutions don't work. This struggling with different techniques is imperative for your deep understanding of the material.