MATH 300: History of Mathematics

Prerequisites & Bulletin Description

Course Objectives

(1) Students should become familiar with some indivuduals who made signifcant contributions to mathematics, starting with Thales of Miletus (624 - 548 B.C.) and ending with the twentieth century. Students should learn how these mathematicians interacted with each other, and how they were affected by the political, religious and cultural environment in which they functioned. 

(2) Students should learn certain mathematical topics with a rich historical context, namely: (a) the Euclidean Algorithm for finding the greatest common divisors of two positive integers; (b) prime factorization of positive integers; (c) solution of cubic equations via Cardan's formula; (d) the use of continued fractions to ?nd the fundamental solution of Pell's equation. 

Evaluation of Students

Students will receive grades based on: 

(1) class presentations of solutions to homework problems; 

(2) mid-term exams, which will include some multiple-choice questions as well as some essay type questions; 

(3) a 1500-word paper on a topic in the history of mathematics chosen by the student with the instructor's approval. 

Course Outline

Topics & Length
Topics Number of Weeks
Mathematics of antiquity, with emphasis on the Hellenistic tradition 5
Mathematics during the Dark Ages and Middle Ages  3
Mathematics from the Renaissance until the modern era  7

Textbooks & Software

David H. Burton, History of Mathematics, 5th edition, McGraw-Hill 

Submitted by: Neville Robbins  
Date: October 1, 2003