Math 5125
History of Mathematics
Dr. Sarah J. Greenwald and Dr. Gregory S. Rhoads

Where to Get Help

  • Dr. Rhoads' Office Hours, 334 Walker Hall, 262-2741. Feel free to call my office to see if I'm in when it isn't my office hours.
  • Dr. Sarah's Office Hours 326 Walker Hall, 262-2363. I am always happy to help you in office hours. An open door means that I am on the floor somewhere, so come look for me.
  •  We will indicate the parts of the web page for the grad students only.  Check the main web page often.
  • The WebCT Bulletin Board is the easiest way to ask a math question outside of class and office hours. We prefer that you use office hours since it is easier to discuss material in person, but if you can not make them, then the newsgroup is a great alternative.
  • Required Resources

  • Burton, David M. The History of Mathematics (Fifth Edition), McGraw Hill, New York, 2003.    This is a great reference on the history of math and should be a part of your personal math library.  You'll find it to be an excellent resource.
  •  Dunham, William, Journey through Genius: The Great Theorems of Mathematics, Wiley, New York, 1990.   A wonderful book discussing some of the major ideas in mathematics through it's history.  There is an excellent transition between the ideas showing how different branches of mathematics can be generated from the same problem.
  • Guedj, Denis, The Parrot's Theorem (translated by Frank Wynne), Thomas Dunn Books, New York, 2000.    A fun mystery with math history as its basis.  A nice introduction to the topic for the non-mathematician.
  • access to a web-browser at least once every 48 hours
  • loose-leaf notebook to organize handouts, notes and your work
  • printouts of your work - see for information about ASU charging for print services.
  • materials for poster project 
  • Course Goals and Methodology

  • Learn about the historical progression of mathematics and the mathematicians who contributed to this progression.
  • Understand the philosophical approach towards various mathematical subjects and how that approach changed through the years.
  • Develop the ability to research topics and summarize and critically evaluate sources and materials.
  • Develop communication skills through writing, in-class discussions and/or presentations, and web page design.
  • By learning mathematics within the context of its historical progression, students develop a greater appreciation for connections between various disciplines of mathematics and the dynamical nature of the subject. By investigating the mathematical contributions of people in other lands and times, students will see mathematics as a discipline for everyone that transcends culture, time, race, and gender. In this course, we will examine the history of algebra, geometry, number theory, calculus, differential equations, linear algebra, statistics, and other areas of mathematics and learn about the culturally diverse mathematicians who worked in these areas. Students will be expected to complete projects to illustrate their understanding of the theoretical ideas in these areas and to communicate these ideas to a lower level audience. These projects could include research reports, classroom activities, presentations, or problem sets. The course is 3 credit hours and will meet for all 15 weeks.  As this course is cross-listed with the 2-hour course MAT 3010, there will be days where only graduate students will attend.  On these days, we will look at graduate level material that will be above the expectation of the typical undergraduate. On the days where both undergraduate students and graduate students will attend, graduate students will be expected to go more deeply into the mathematics and will have additional assignments and different tests to reflect the difference in level.

    Catalog Description

    The history and development of mathematical thought and theory from ancient to modern times, with particular attention to the history of geometry, algebra, calculus, differential equations, linear algebra, and statistics, and to the persons who made significant contributions to these areas of mathematics.


  • Participation in Classroom Activities 10% Regular classes will consist of discussions, activities, problem solving, and a little bit of standard lecturing. As such, students will learn little from this course if they don't attend or actively engage the material. Therefore, you are expected to attend all classes, complete homework, critically read the literature, and actively participate in the class discussions and lab exercises.  Not keeping up with or contributing to the class will result in a lower participation grade.
  • Projects 35% Students will be expected to complete projects appropriate for their background and major. These projects could include research reports, classroom activity sheets, presentations, or problem sets. Work may be turned in before, but never after the due date with the exception of one emergency late project over the course of the semester which must be turn in within one week from the original due date. Some projects may occur during the last week of classes.
  • Tests 30% Tests are designed to reinforce readings and course material. Tests may be oral, written or on WebCT. No make-ups allowed (may occur during the last week of classes).
  • Final Project Poster and Web Project 25% will occur on Tuesday 5/7/03 from 9-11:30. No make-ups allowed.
  • Extra credit There will extra credit opportunities during the semester for which points will accumulate. When final grades are given, extra credit points are taken into account in the determination of -, nothing, or + attached to a letter grade.
  • Other Policies

    Plan to spend an average of 2-3 hours outside of class for each hour in class on this course. You are responsible for all material covered and all announcements and assignments made at each class, whether you are present or not. You are also responsible for announcements made on the web pages, so check them often.

    Asking questions, and explaining things to others, in or out of class, is one of the best ways to improve your understanding of the material. We will promote an environment in which everyone feels comfortable asking questions, making mistakes, offering good guesses and ideas, and is respectful to one another. Turn in projects or prepare to present problems even if it they are not complete, even if only to say, "I do not understand such and such" or "I am stuck here." Be as specific as possible. When writing up work, be sure to give acknowledgment where it is due. Submitting someone else's work as your own (PLAGIARISM) is a serious violation of the University's Academic Integrity Code.

    In this course, you will be challenged with problems that you have never seen before. We do not expect you to be able to resolve all the issues immediately. Instead, we want to see what you can do on your own. Out in the real world, this is important, since no matter what job you have, you will be expected to seek out information and answers to new topics you have not seen before. This may feel uncomfortable and frustrating. We understand this and want to help you through the process. It helps to remember that there are no mathematical dead-ends! Each time we get stuck, it teaches us something about the problem we are working on, and leads us to a deeper understanding of the mathematics.

     In the real world though, you are not expected to face your work alone. You will be allowed to talk to other people and you may even be expected to work with other people. In this class, you are also not expected to face your work alone. We are always happy to help you in class, during office hours (or by appointment), or on the WebCT bulletin board, and will try to give you hints and direction. At times though, to encourage the exploration process, we may direct you to rethink a problem and come back to discuss it later. It is important to not only understand the correct solution and why it works, but also to understand why other potential solutions don't work. This struggling with different techniques is imperative for your deep understanding of the material.