Math 311. History of Mathematics

Welcome, students, to the home page for our history of mathematics course. As you are aware the textbook we are using is A History of Mathematics. An Introduction, by Victor J. Katz of the University of the District of Columbia. This is an excellent text, but it is hard going at times, so you will need to devote considerable time to reading it. It is important that you not fall behind in your reading; to check on how you are doing I will call on random members of the class to summarize what is in specific sections of the book.

We will not cover every section in the book, so you should watch this space for a list of precisely which sections we shall discuss (this information will be given in class, but is put here so you will have it all in one place).

  1. Chapter 1. All sections.
On the first day of class, I distributed a five page syllabus that has been developing over a number of years. The syllabus contains all the detail that it does, because my experience is that you will benefit from knowing all of these things right at the beginning. When you read it, you will learn that a lot of work will be required in this course and that I expect a high level of work from you. Again, my experience has been that I demand a lot of you, that you will learn a lot and turn in high quality work.

Although I did not pass them out, here are some Hints for Success One would not think this necessary, but frequently I get comments form students that they wish that they had been given this advice long ago. So I encourage you to read it.

Your first writing assignment was to send me your automathography via email. My email address is [now] .

When I received your automathography I took your email address and entered your name on a mailing list for the use of our class. It is called

and can be use to discuss matters related to this class. You may post to the list by addressing your message to
You must be a member of the class to post to this list.

During the first and second weeks of the semester I conducted library tours to help you in preparing your library assignments. A summary of the library tour is available here to remind you of what we did.

Early in the semester you are required to do two library assignments. For the first, you were given the name of a mathematician, called Your Mathematician (YM), together with a sample biography of Al-Khwarizmi to serve as a model of what I expect. When the name of Your Mathematician comes up during the semester, I will call on you to say something about YM.

The second library assignment requires that you seek out 10 articles in periodicals that involve the history of mathematics. An annotated List of Periodicals that contain historical articles is available. When you finish your list of annotated journal articles you should send them to our class mailing list so that everyone in the class can benefit from what you have read and so that it will be easy for me to prepare an Annotated Bibliography Prepared by This Class. In the meantime here is an Annotated Bibliography Prepared by Former Students.

Since I expect many of you will use the web to do some of the research for your paper, I have designed a few internet exercises to instill a bit of skepticism in you. Please post your replies to these exercises to our class list.

Each student is required to write a major paper. The choice of topic is very much up to the individual student. Here a list of Paper Topics to give you some ideas of what to write about. Watch this space for another list, an annotated list, of possible paper topics. I will be happy to talk to you anytime about your ideas for a paper.

If you have comments, send email to V. Frederick Rickey at .