Trying to find math inside everything else

Posts tagged ‘History of math’

They Don’t All Go So Well

I’ve known what my next post was going to be about for some time, which is why it’s been so long between posts, as I’ve been putting it off. The failures are less fun to write about, but it’s just as important when your lesson is a bust. Now I have lots of other things I want to write about, so more posts in the next few days.

Shortly after my successful Egyptian Fractions lesson, I wanted to tie a lesson into another ancient society they were learning about, so I decided to teach the Mesopotamian Number System. The idea was that we’d reinforce some ideas about exponents, place value, and scientific notation by working with another base.

The problem: working with another base is hard, especially if you’ve never done it before, and sexagesimal is not a great place to start, even with the boost I got with the fraction lesson. Introducing the idea with binary probably would have worked, but I didn’t have the time to do both and also teach the cuneiform and do the activity. Unfortunately, to save the activity, the basis of the understanding got cut. Which left me with a fun but useless activity.

I used hours:minutes:seconds as an analog to help understand base-60, but because they got that they couldn’t move past it. I gave them numbers to translate and had them carve cuneiform tax tablets (and they learned about Babylonian taxes), but that didn’t work out too well.

And then I didn’t even get nice product to display for too long, because they were too brittle.

As I said. A bust. Or rather, busted.

How to Order the Topics

Not much posting recently, but hey, it’s summer. I’ve mostly done vacationing, now, and am really thinking about the new year.

I just finished reading through the first half of Merzbach’s and Boyer’s A History of Mathematics, up until the Renaissance. I took a list of topics associated with different cultures as I read through, as they may lead to some interesting lessons in the upcoming school year. I’m not really sure of the best way to integrate with the Global curriculum, but the 9th Grade Team is meeting tomorrow and I’m hoping I can talk with the history teacher about it. Obviously an ordering by mathematical sense won’t match a chronological historical ordering, or even a topical historical ordering, but I’m sure something will come out of it.

At least, I feel that, if one had to come first, it is better to have the historical context before the math, than vice versa. Here’s the list I made, though there’s not much to it.

Algebra Tiles Ancient China Counting Rods
Trigonometry Ancient India
Number Systems Ancient India
Lattice Multiplication Ancient India
Radicals Ancient India
Fractions Egypt Unit Fractions
Adding Like Terms Greece As opposed to the Babylonians
Geometric Algebra Greece
Ratios Greece Euxodus, in Plato’s Academy
Trigonometric Ratios Greece Ptolomy, using circles
Longitude and Latitude Greece
Completing the Square Islamic Empire
Number Systems Maya Bases
Systems of Equations Medieval China
Pascal’s Triangle Medieval China From the Jade Mirror
Number Systems Mesopotamia Bases
Context Clues Mesopotamia Place Value
Exponents Mesopotamia Place Value
Fibonnacci Middle Ages
Slope Middle Ages Sine and inclined planes
Proportions Pythagoreans Music
Radicals Pythagoreans The expulsion of Hippasus
Types of Numbers Pythagoreans Numerology