Delve into the History of Math. (Grades 9-12)

Article excerpt

Stephanie Mungle, a high school math teacher in Missouri, offers this cross-curricular lesson that has students writing research papers on mathematics history.

Materials: Library resource material, computers with word-processing and Internet capabilities, paper and pen

Calculating history: Explain to your students that mathematics does have a history; it did not just appear. Take your classes to the library, computer lab, or use the computers in your classroom (should you have enough for students to pair up on) and research the history of mathematics.

Compose a list of significant historical mathematical figures or events for each class--you will want to have at least one or two per student. The following day, allow your students to return to the library/computer lab to research a chosen mathematician.

Before going to research, I pass out a project handout. I ask students in each class to inform me of their choice, so they do not double up on a topic. I then record their topic selections for my records. I give the students three weeks to complete the paper and I usually allow two days of class time, only, to work/research this paper.

I intentionally make this project somewhat vague, simply because I want the students to use their creativity and imagination. Many in the past have included pictures and graphs that enhanced their paper quite a bit, for which I give bonus points.

Following is a sample project handout:

For this quarter you have a major project, worth 2 test scores (that is 200 points). Do not panic--you have 2 weeks to work on this. …