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Math Through the Ages: A Gentle History for Teachers and Others, Expanded Edition (Mathematical Association of America Textbooks) Hardcover – December 1, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0883857366 ISBN-10: 0883857367 Edition: 2nd

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Math Through the Ages: A Gentle History for Teachers and Others, Expanded Edition (Mathematical Association of America Textbooks) + Journey through Genius: The Great Theorems of Mathematics
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Product Details

  • Series: Mathematical Association of America Textbooks
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: The Mathematical Association of America: Oxton House Publishing; 2 edition (December 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0883857367
  • ISBN-13: 978-0883857366
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #27,813 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

'This is a beautiful and important book, a pleasure to read, in which the history recounted fully illuminates the mathematical ideas, and the ideas themselves are superbly explained: a wonderful accomplishment.' Barry Mazur, Harvard University

Book Description

Where did maths come from? Who thought up all those symbols, and why? What's the story behind negative numbers? The sketches here answer these questions and many others in an informal, easygoing style that's accessible to teachers, students, and anyone who is curious about the history of mathematical ideas.

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Customer Reviews

The writing is vibrant and to the point.
Sam Adams
I came across this book because a friend of mine uses it in a college class for math ed.
Graham Saint
This is a very easy to understand math history book.
XandS88

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Charles Ashbacher HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 18, 2004
Format: Hardcover
As students struggle through their mathematics lessons, it is sometimes helpful for them to understand that the creators of their torment often struggled as well. Furthermore, when we present the polished mathematics of calculus, linear algebra and so forth, educators often forget the long historical road that led to the material that we handle so well. In this excellent book covering the history of mathematics, the authors demonstrate a competency of exposition and a focus on the key points that students and teachers can both appreciate.
It begins with a short and rapid recapitulation of mathematics from the first primitive scratches in the dust to the role of computers in solving problems. After this whirlwind beginning, you are subjected to twenty-five short essays, each about a specific point in mathematical history. By point, I don't mean in time, rather a point as in a position in a discussion. These essays are very well written and each would be excellent fodder for a one-hour class lecture or presentation. Questions for discussion and material for projects are included with each of the short essays. Topics covered in the essays include: the development of the zero, the story of pi, writing fractions, negative numbers, the development of coordinate geometry, complex numbers, Non-Euclidean geometry, probability theory and Boolean algebra.
This is by far the best book I have seen for courses in the history of mathematics. With the essays, problems and ideas for projects, all an instructor needs to do is read, discuss and enjoy. If your interest is in learning a bit more about the history of mathematics, it will also serve you well in that capacity.
Published in the recreational mathematics e-mail newsletter, reprinted with permission.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Juliann Davison on January 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover
As a college senior majoring in Mathematics Education, I needed to take a Math History class. I read two books that focus on the history of mathematics; one of those books was Math Through the Ages. I found this book, especially in comparison with the other book, Journey Through Genius, to be disjointed, redundant and vague. The first part of the book reads like a typical math history book and the second part repeats the information given in the first part but reads more like a textbook, including questions and projects that pertain, loosely, to the information offered in each section. I found that the questions were often irrelevant for anyone not specifically majoring in Math history, which is fine for a history book... unless that book claims to be great for students of math education. Also, I felt that the questions and projects asked more from the student than the book gave to the student. It is one thing for the projects to expect extra research, but the point of a book is to give you the knowledge you need, especially to answer its end-of-section questions, not just pose more questions than it answers. Really, if you want a better understanding of Mathematics and its history, check out Journey Through Genius. It reads better and offers more detail in explaining concepts that pertain to today's mathematicians.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Graham Saint on February 9, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I came across this book because a friend of mine uses it in a college class for math ed. It's really well written and makes the material accessible for people whose math background isn't necessarily very strong. I bet it could even be used for high school students. The exercises and projects are really good, too.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Viktor Blasjo on November 22, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This is a superficial history pandering to future teachers. The insights that history can bring to the classroom are desperately needed to improve mathematics education, but this book is too vapid and uncritical to serve the cause well. Consider for example the following piece of pseudo-history.

We are told that "it was a truly revolutionary step forward at the time" when Harriot "proposed a simple but powerful technique for solving algebraic equations: Move all the terms of the equation to one side of the equal sign" (p. 81). An equation in such a form can of course be solved by factoring, and, according to the authors, "a lot was known about factoring polynomials, even in Harriot's time, so this principle was a major advance in the theory of equations" (p. 82).

One can only hope that the reader will recognise the tell-tale signs of hot-air pop-history in this baloney. How could such an utterly trivial idea have been "a truly revolutionary step"? And how come previous mathematicians knew "a lot" about factoring polynomials yet somehow failed to see how to apply it to equation solving? Did they sit around and factor polynomials all day just for fun? It doesn't make any sense.

A very different picture emerges if one studies actual history instead of this unsubstantiated sensationalism. In Harriot's book, the "truly revolutionary" idea of moving the terms to one side is never even mentioned but rather taken for granted as the triviality that it is. Instead, the book is a long tabulation of expansions of expressions of a variety of forms such as (x+a)(x+b)(x+c), (x-a)(x+b)^2, etc. The resulting catalogue of "canonical forms", as he calls them, can then be read backwards to find the factorisation and hence the roots of a given equation.
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