Math and Culture Course outline
(skeletal outline, expanded as course progresses)
For the first part of the course we will be mainly in the Hersh book and we will also supplement that with readings from the web and other sources. We want to take an almost historical, cultural overview of some of the highlights of what occurred in “mathematics” with some tangential explorations along the way. After this survey, we will discuss again, what is mathematics.
Next, we move on to exploring the particular mathematical problem that was birthed soon after the French Revolution and is unsolved (and worth a whole lot of money) still today. We examine some of the mathematics behind this problem in an attempt to understand the significance of the problem. As we are doing this we will also participate in more tangential explorations of mathematical topics that are either related by content or by chronology. In this portion of the course we will be using the Derbyshire book as well as supplemental readings.
0. Introduction- Mathematics and culture, what are they?
Week 1 readings and discussion (see assignments page)
Phil’s research found the following sites:
Alex looked up some stuff on the abacus
Ashley found the most current way of writing Chinese numerals that had a cool converter
David found more on Mayan numerals
· Our current number system and our view of “number”
· Square roots and other such things
· The concept of the unknown
· Cartesian coordinate system
· Modern comfort (yes- comfort) with algorithms
iii. Game theory
Some set theory and the axiom of choice.
V. What are complex numbers anyway….
A potpourri of mathematics