Thursday, June 19, 2008

Learning History of Mathematics

The title of this post is a bit misleading - I am not going to write about History of Mathematics in this post. This I plan to do in another post.

I am now doing a short introductory course about History of Mathematics. When I took it I though it is going to be a simple and easy course. However, it turned out to be problematic. The course itself is only two hours a week, but we are also supposed to read books about History of Mathematics. The professor recommended History of Mathematics by Boyer (very good book), and also some other books. I was reading this book in the library for some time, but somebody took it so I can no longer use this copy. When I found out the Boyer was taken, I took another book - Development of Mathematics by Bell. I cannot say I like it, he is very critical and he is also jumping a lot. One of the purposes of this book was to show to students what areas are now alive in math and what areas are of no interest now, however this goal makes it more difficult to read. Unfortunately, the part of the library where this book is, was closed today and will be closed for the following month.
I requested Boyer and will get it for 3 weeks on 9/7, so this is not a problem. I also have two books on my computer - A History of Mathematics From Mesopotamia to Modernity by Luke Hodgkin and History of Mathematics An Introduction 6th Edition by David M. Burton. I don't like to read from the computer screen, but the books are very good. Another resource that the professor recommended is MacTutor. It is a very good site with a lot of articles about math history and it also has a lot of mathematicians biographies.

However, after doing this course for six weeks it is obvious that reading one book is not enough. I feel that to really understand and learn this subject I need to search for extra information to feel the gaps which are not filled by the books I have. This means that I will have to "research" on the net the topics that are not clear to me.
Since I will be doing this research anyway, I will write about these topics on Math Pages. I have a post about faster than light travel and another one about definite integrals to write, but after finishing them, I will write about math history. Probably I will start with solving the cubic equation.

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