16 - Digging up History on the Internet: Discovery Worksheets pp. 123-126By Betty Mayfield
Mathematical Time Capsules
Online ISBN: 9780883859841
Chapter DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5948/UPO9780883859841.017
So you want to include some history of mathematics in your upper-level courses, but you just can't imagine how you can possibly fit anything else in this semester. How will you get to all the topics you want to cover, and still have time for some history?
Instead of giving a lecture on a history topic, or on the name behind a famous theorem, why not let students find the information themselves? Using a discovery worksheet is fun, saves class time, and encourages students to learn things on their own. Some of the answers may be in their own textbooks, or in library books on the history of mathematics, but the activities in this article are designed so that students are encouraged to search the Internet for information. In the process, students will probably be surprised to learn how much material is ‘out there’ about mathematics and its history and will begin to learn how to separate the online wheat from the chaff. The examples that follow are intended for students in linear algebra and differential equations courses, as indicated, but you can obviously use this idea in any class. This assignment is very flexible: you may assign the worksheets for homework or use them as a class activity; you may have students work independently or in groups.
Students enrolled in a linear algebra class may never have stopped to think that Gaussian elimination was named for someone named Gauss, or that there was a Cramer behind Cramer's Rule. They may be surprised to learn that people have been solving systems of linear equations for thousands of years.
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