I'm teaching a history of mathematics class for master students in an integrated teacher training program. They have calculus and linear algebra plus a "proof" course and a geometry course, but most of them don't have analysis. I want to cover topics that are "related" to school mathematics. It doesn't have to be things they will use when teaching, but things that will give them a better understanding to things they will be teaching. I've tried both Katz and Stilwell. Both are excellent books, but not quite right for my audience and my class. I liked Stillwell because it was more mathematical, but I would have liked to have seen more applied mathematics, too. I'm thinking about trying Mathematics in Civilization by Resnikoff and Wells or Journey through Genius by Dunham. Has anybody tried them? Or any other suggestions for similar books?
There are a number of good options for such a class, but it depends wildly on what your objectives are. I have only used Journey Through Genius in an actual class setting, so I have a few relevant comments.
- Very readable
- Many interesting personality anecdotes
- Often connects to less well-known characters
- Low prerequisites
- Useful material not often covered in "normal" curriculum outside a math history course
- Fun results
- Could easily use other Dunham books to supplement without jarring stylistic changes
- Very reasonable price and easy to obtain used copies
- Couldn't possibly be a solo text, needs considerable supplement in terms of time periods and coverage even if you have a "short course"
- Low prerequisites mean anything beyond infinite series (including calculus) can't be covered properly with just this
- Definitely not a textbook, so some fairly noticeable gaps if you were to intend it used in this way (e.g. very heavy on Greek math and number theory)
- You'll have to think of your own homework and/or quiz material
The way I've used it is as a cheap primary text with lots of stuff interesting to students who otherwise might see a math history class as a very tedious hoop to jump through, and then I supplement considerably with material from "missing" sections and more advanced results. I've found many MAA journals and the Notices of the AMS often have good material along those lines, and the MacTutor history site is great even if the interface is a bit dated.