Spring 2021: Math 290 Special Topics in the History of Mathematics
Have you ever wondered where the numerical shapes 0, 1, 2, 3... come from? Who came up with using the symbol pi? Would we think about math differently if we used different symbols? How did people ever start thinking about solving equations? Why are people so interested in triangles, circles, and squares? Why are there infinitely many prime numbers? What does it mean for an infinite set to be countable or uncountable? Why do people sometimes say math is beautiful?
What do we learn by looking at the mathematics of the past? What mathematical concepts or notation could we invent now to make the mathematics of the future easier? What do we learn when we look at who has engaged in mathematics in the past? Who can engage in mathematics now? Everyone! You, in particular! Come join us for Math 290, Special Topics in the History of Mathematics.
Math 290 will include a mix of lecture/discussions, guest lectures from scholars around the country, student presentations, problem sets, and informational essays written by students. The textbooks will include "Journey through Genius" by William Dunham, which has a European perspective, and "The Crest of the Peacock" by George Gheverghese Joseph, which has a worldwide perspective. Additional readings will be distributed throughout the semester, and chosen by students as they develop independent projects.