MA370 History of Mathematics
Math majors. Anyone else interested in the history of mathematics.
Goals of This Course
To learn some of the history of mathematics, of course.
To learn why you might want to know that history.
To practice reading and writing mathematics.
To stretch yourself intellectually.
Course structure, grades
We will study the history of mathematics by working with original
sources to see how the inventors of the concepts we take for granted
today thought about them when they were new - topics of serious
research interest, not yet formalized and packaged for students to
The class is small. I expect everyone to participate actively, asking
questions, presenting homework solutions. I may set up a wiki where
you can construct lecture notes interactively and collectively.
There will be homework, and a term paper to be presented to the
I do not use an algorithm to compute grades. I'll discuss that in class.
I know that the students in the class are starting from different
places mathematically. I expect each of you to learn at a level that's
appropriate. So the same work may mean an A for someone
and a B for someone else.
I do not grade on a curve. Everyone can earn an A. (Wouldn't that be a
Where and when:
TuTh 11:00AM - 12:15PM,
Getting help and encouragement
I am always glad to talk about mathematics. Whenever
my door is open (most of TTh) you are free to
ask questions. Email to
eb at cs dot umb dot edu
is the best way to reach me, both
during the day and evenings and weekends. My office phone is 287-6444
but I don't have voice mail and I.m not always there.
Often other students in the class can help you. It's worth learning
how to work with, learn from (and help) your peers - how else will you
keep learning when you've left school?
We will work extensively with the resources in
Mathematical Expeditions - Chronicles by the Explorers
Reinhard Laubenbacher and David Pengelley,
ISBN 978-0-387-98433-9 (softcover).
It's on order at the bookstore and available on the web.
You may find that it's worth bringing the book to class.
Section 504 of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 offers
guidelines for curriculum modifications and adaptations for students
with documented disabilities. If applicable, students may obtain
adaptation recommendations from the
Ross Center for Disability
Campus Center, UL Room 211,
(617-287-7430). The student must present these
recommendations and discuss them with each professor within a
reasonable period, preferably by the end of Drop/Add period.
For the rules concerning the acknowledgment of
intellectual debt, and the value of working with sources and fellow
The Registrar's web-site states:
The grade incomplete (INC) is reported only where a portion of the
assigned or required class work, or the final examination, has not
been completed because of serious illness, extreme personal
circumstances, or scholarly reasons at the request of the
instructor. If the student's record is such that he or she would fail
the course regardless of the missing work, he or she fails.
The key point is that the grade of incomplete is NOT a substitute for
an F. You must notify me as soon as possible about any special
circumstances that affect your ability to complete your work on time.