Questions tagged [history]

For questions concerning the history of mathematical education and the use of historical topics in teaching mathematics.

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130 views

How much math would a non-STEM major have studied in 1950?

I've spoken to several people who attended US universities in the decades before I was born, and I was somewhat surprised to find that it seemed to be common (based on the anecdotes I received) for ...
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430 views

Does anyone use the cubic formula these days?

I am writing a story for young people about the history of the development of the cubic formula and complex numbers, partly because it has so much drama and partly because it's amusing that complex ...
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5answers
423 views

Would a 1990's educated person need additional content knowledge to tutor high school mathematics today?

Have there been any major content (not pedagogical) changes in the basic US high school mathematics curriculum since the mid-1990's? More specifically, if I wanted to become a tutor of high school ...
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192 views

When (and why) did geometric means of more than two numbers exit the secondary curriculum?

In contemporary US secondary mathematics textbooks, geometric means occasionally make a brief appearance. For example: In Geometry, students learn that when an altitude is dropped to the hypotenuse ...
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1answer
186 views

Duodecimal by Stealth

It is widely recognised that the Duodecimal number system is superior to the decimal system. However, it is plainly obvious that trying to introduce such a system would be difficult, especially in a ...
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3answers
318 views

The royal road to calculus

In the early 1900s Felix Klein lay out his vision for secondary mathematics curriculum. He wanted schools to teach calculus, so that universities would not be burdened by it. And at the core of the ...
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144 views

Learning math historically

What is meant by learning math historically (NOT learning math history only, but learning math with a historical development perspective)? I've seen some sources that to learn a math topic X, you need ...
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4answers
323 views

Why is polynomial factorization over the integers part of secondary school curricula?

By "polynomial factorization over the integers", I mean problems and solutions like the following: Problem: Find a factorization into irreducible polynomials for $24x^2 +x - 10$ and ...
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1answer
174 views

Where can I find primary sources from the New Math movement in the 60s?

I'm interested in learning about the New Math movement from a historical perspective. I've located some secondary sources about the topic, mainly parodies, highly critical restrospective articles, or ...
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507 views

Explaining to students why $m$ and $b$ are used in the slope-intercept equation of a line

The slope-intercept form of the equation of a line is often presented in textbooks as $$y = mx + b\,,$$ where $m$ is the slope of the line and $b$ is the $y$-intercept. How did $m$ and $b$ become ...
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678 views

What did math educators think about the transition to widespread classroom use of calculators?

When we have discussions about which technology to include in our classrooms today, we are often somewhat conflicted with many standard arguments and worries being presented on both sides. To help ...
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174 views

SMSG Calculus Usage?

Did anyone out there have experience with SMSG's Calculus text? Our school system (Amherst, MA) used SMSG texts from my 6th grade class onward. But for HS Calculus (1969) we didn't use the two-part ...
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What on earth was Old Math?

I'd like to able to follow discussions/arguments about maths education, but many of them revolve around the transition to new math. I was taught in the UK in the early 90s, and none of the examples ...
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Was math education following a western trend?

After some research on the recent history of math education in the U.S., from the new math movement to the beginning of the 21st century, I understood that the historic flow of the math education ...
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72 views

What are the best expository pieces related to the Van Hiele models?

The Van Hiele model (wikipage) "is a theory that describes how students learn geometry." I would appreciate further insights into the original model, later models that expanded or re-worked it, and ...
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2answers
425 views

SMSG: Did any school districts actual teach the curriculum as planned and what were the results for the teachers and students?

I was introduced to the SMSG math curriculum at Topeka High School between 1965 and 1966. my recollection (somewhat defective for medical reasons) was that the Topeka (KS) school system rolled the ...
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When did US mathematics programs start failing to prepare incoming students for books like “Baby” Rudin?

I've seen in a lot of questions about "which textbook to use for intro analysis", and inevitably Rudin's Principles of Mathematical Analysis comes up, with the (almost cliche) rejoinder that "today's ...
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Teaching the History of Mathematics in High School

Is any time being spent on the history of mathematics in high school classes today? Few observations as a student - I had to discover Cantor many years after I was introduced to set theory. I had ...
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1answer
282 views

Who is E. Kim Nebeuts?

I just learned the name E. Kim Nebeuts from the quote at the beginning of Joseph O'Rourke's answer to this question. Curious, I google searched. All I saw on the first 2 pages of results was things ...
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3answers
463 views

Fighting math phobia with history

After years of experience in some area of expertise, you can easily forget how difficult it can be for the uninitiated to grasp some fundamental concepts, and, indeed, people often edit out of their ...
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5answers
404 views

Hands on activities for a college history of mathematics course

I will be teaching a course in history of mathematics to juniors/seniors who are math and math education majors, many future school teachers. It should include highlights from antiquity to early 19-th ...
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1answer
359 views

History Of Infinite Series

What is a good source for the history of infinite series? Moreover, why do we learn them? Are they really useful on their own, or are just tools / stepping stone for studying series of functions ...
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1answer
194 views

The origins of $\mathrm{cis}(\theta)$

There is a abbreviation used in high school mathematics that is almost never seen outside of it: $\mathrm{cis}(\theta) = \cos(\theta) + i \sin(\theta)$, where cis stands for cosine + i sine. As soon ...
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Historical tidbits to liven up calculus classes

What are some examples of math history that can be mentioned in calculus classes, either to liven things up or to provide additional perspective / insight on the material being learned? For example, ...
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1answer
116 views

On using different notations for the same objects

Historically, in set theory we use two different notations to refer set theoretically same objects $\aleph_{\alpha}$ and $\omega_{\alpha}$. The folklore justification of this dual notation is that we ...
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2answers
783 views

Examples of cultural limitations on math education

Based on Maggie Koerth-Baker's article, "What do Christian fundamentalists have against set theory?", it seems there are some parts of culture which put some restrictions on math education. ...
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655 views

Historically Motivating Concepts

I have been reading this site for a while, and was glad to find an entire tag devoted to "concept motivation," which is currently my area of interest. However, my particular focus has not been ...
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What female mathematician can I introduce to my High School students?

I enjoy talking about Pythagoras when I teach the Pythagorean theorem. I sometimes mention Descartes when introducing Cartesian coordinates. And Leibniz and Newton are mentioned in many calculus ...
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530 views

Would taking 5 minutes to explain the history behind a mathematical idea help stimulate learning the idea?

I read a paper in my "Research Issues in Mathematical Education" class that I have applied to the Undergraduate Calculus I and Calculus II class that I teach. I take five minutes to explain the ...
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What was the problem with New Math? Why did it end?

During the 60s, people in the US (and also in Europe), school curricula introduces New Math where students began with set theory in the first grade before learning to perform addition or ...
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3answers
631 views

When did the American school system's progression of math classes take its current form?

In the United States, secondary educatioin students generally progress through pre-algebra courses, then algebra, Euclidean geometry, more algebra/trigonometry, then calculus or statistics. I am ...