May 17, 2007                                                       

Dear Participant,


We're excited that you’ll be joining us for Discovery and Uses of the History of Mathematics course that is being sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Middle School Math and Science Partnership (RMMSMSP). We will be meeting in the library of Englewood High School* Monday – Friday, June 4 – June 15, 2007, 8:30 – 4 pm. We anticipate a fun, interactive but intense experience.


We have several goals for this concentrated two-week course.  During this course, expect that you will:

  1. Learn how to perform efficient, reliable historical research on the web in order to answer questions that you and your students have about mathematical topics; 
  2. Learn about the growth of various mathematical content strands and have a rough idea when many of the topics that you teach were first discovered or created;
  3. “Meet” several fascinating personalities from our mathematical past whose stories can help you and your students bring to life the origins of present day middle school mathematics, and
  4. Learn some fun-to-tell historical accounts and cool stories to share with your students about the mathematics that they are learning.


In preparation for the class, we ask that you begin thinking about several things. First, it will be very helpful - but not required - for you to have Internet access at a home during the evenings and on the weekends.  As mentioned above, you’ll be researching questions on the web throughout the class.


Secondly, since we’ll be in class all day and have small homework assignments on some evenings, please be prepared to really invest yourself in the class.


Begin thinking about any people or time periods from the history of math about which you are curious.  Your inquisitiveness and energy to satisfy it will be important ingredients in making this class fun and worthwhile for yourself and all of us.


Finally, we ask that you choose one book from the attached list that interests you and read it prior to the class. We chose these books because we enjoyed reading them and we have given short commentaries/reviews to help guide your choice. (An on-line bookstore can deliver it quickly.)


We’ll see you Monday morning, June 4th at 8:30 sharp. We’ll have some munchies available for breaks, but since we’ll all be sitting at computers, please finish your morning beverages and goodies before you come into the computer area.


If you have questions, your first contact is Julie or Arianna in the Project Coordinator’s office:

303-556-6509.  They emailed this note to you, so their email address is above. You may also contact any of us with course content questions. 


Your instructors,

Bill Cherowitzo    ,

Jim Loats            

Carmen Rubino   


* Englewood High School is very near the intersection of Broadway and Hampden. More precisely, it is on the NE corner of the intersection of Logan and Mansfield in Englewood. That is a couple blocks south of Hampden and a couple blocks east of Broadway on Logan.

Recommended Reading for

RMMSMP – Discovery and Uses of the History of Mathematics


The following books are in no particular order:



1.      Mathematical Scandals, by Theoni Pappus (1997)

Mathematics is principally about numbers, equations, and solutions, all of them precise and timeless. But behind this arcane matter lies the sometimes sordid world of real people, whose rivalries and deceptions are at odds with the mathematician's reputation for clear thinking and scientific detachment. In this highly readable volume of vignettes of mathematical scandals and gossip, Theoni Pappas assembles 29 fascinating stories of intrigue and the bizarre -- in short, the human background of the history of mathematics.


2.      Euclid’s Window: The Story of Geometry from Parallel Lines to Hyperspace, by Leonard Mlodinow (2001)

 Leonard Mlodinow attempts the difficult task of presenting geometry as a core activity in mathematics, science and human culture, and pulls it off brilliantly...Euclid`s Window is a remarkably painless way to discover just how central geometric thinking has been to human culture. Like its subject matter, it is elegant, attractive and concise . . . but also very readable.


3.      The Crest of the Peacock: The Non-European Roots of Mathematics, by G.G. Joseph (1992)

The author examines the contributions to mathematics by the Chinese, Japanese, Indians, Native Americans and Africans. He challenges widely held assumptions about the development of mathematics over time.


4.      The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, The World’s Most Astonishing Number, by Mario Livio (2002)

The author examines and debunks claims of the omnipresence of the golden ratio. Woven with history, the tale includes the tight relationship of the golden ratio with Fibonacci numbers.


5.      Women in Mathematics, by Lynn M. Osen (1974)

This is the accepted biography of eight women mathematicians. There is another book with the same title, but it is about the myths of women in mathematics.



6.      The Other Side of the Equation: A Selection of Mathematical Stories and Anecdotes, by Howard W. Eves (1972)

This volume is a compilation of mathematical anecdotes. Here you can learn why there is no Nobel Prize in mathematics. Whether or not you believe the story is another matter ...



7.      Trigonometric Delights, by Eli Maor (1998)

Maor's presentation of the historical development of the concepts and results deepens one's appreciation of them, and his discussion of the personalities involved and their politics and religions puts a human face on the subject. His exposition of mathematical arguments is thorough and remarkably easy to understand. There is a lot of material here that teachers can use to keep their students awake and interested. In short, Trigonometric Delights should be required reading for everyone who teaches trigonometry and can be highly recommended for anyone who uses it.


8.      Numerology, or What Pythagoras Wrought, by Underwood Dudley (1997)

Numerology is the delusion that numbers have power over events. Numerology is a descendent of number mysticism, which is the belief that the contemplation of numbers can give mystical and non-rational insights into their nature and the nature of the universe. This book gives an outline of the history of number mysticism and numerology with many examples. The message of the book is that numbers indeed have power, but not over events, rather over human minds. The book is intended for anyone interested in human folly.


9.      The Art of Mathematics, by Jerry P. King (1992)

Why do so many intelligent, cultured people find mathematics a deep mystery – or a nightmare? Why do people who appreciate the beauty of a Shakespeare sonnet or a Vermeer painting tremble at the prospect of deciphering a simple algebraic formula? In this clear, concise, and superbly written volume, mathematics professor and poet Jerry P. King reveals that beauty is at the heart of mathematics – and he makes that beauty accessible to all readers.


10.  Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea, by Charles Seife (2000)

Zero’s history is a crafted saga. The author foreshadows the events which lead the reader to wonder what is going to happen despite the fact that we know the ending.