New History of Mathematics Course

The Simpson College Mathematics Department is excited to offer a new special topics course, Math 190: Classical Writings in Mathematics, during the Fall 2014 semester.  The class will be taught by Dr. Deb Czarneski.  Note that this course will not count as an elective in any major.  However, the course is designated Historical Perspective (HP) and Quantitative Reasoning (QR).

What is the course description? Students in the course will read, discuss, and analyze the historical context of important primary documents in the history of mathematics.  We will learn about key developments in mathematics and the motivation behind these developments from the original authors.  Topics include arithmetic operations, an axiomatic approach to geometry, decimal places, imaginary numbers, Pascal’s triangle, continued fractions and more.  All mathematics discussed will be mathematics developed before the introduction of calculus.

What is an example of a primary document in mathematics? Simon Stevin wrote a 1585 paper (which we will read and discuss in the course) first introducing the theory of decimal places.  He devotes a portion of the paper to argue why this representation is superior to fractional representation.  He also includes an appendix of how his invention could be used in surveying, measuring tapestry, and astronomy.

What are the prerequisites for the course?  None.

What general education designations will the course satisfy?  HP and QR

For more information contact Deb Czarneski.


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