MATH 629 History of Mathematics
Professor: Dr. Sue Geller
Office: 128 Milner (MILN on the map)
Office Hours: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10:00-11:30 am, or by
Welcome to the home page for Math 629 History of Mathematics
for the Fall of 2005. These pages will continue to be
under construction, so please check them regularly for any changes,
especially in due dates and assignments.
This course will consist of reading assignments, problem assignments,
a book report, and a term paper. You may find yourself challenged in
new ways by the assignments, because some of the problems ask you to
conjecture why something might have happened or how someone might have done
something, given what they knew at the time. When answering such questions,
please support your answers with evidence from the text or other sources.
If using other sources, please give references.
History of Mathematics: Brief Version by Victor J. Katz and published
click here to buy from the publisher. When I spoke with the publisher, I
was told that, if you include that this is a course textbook at Texas A\&M
University (the pop-up window requires you know the zip code is 77843), then
three day UPS shipping is free. The book is also available at
One type of discussion omitted by the text so as to make it brief is
biographical material on the various mathematicians. Such material as well as
other information is a web-published book
Lectures on the History of Mathematics by
Dr. Don Allen of Texas A&M University. It has many nice biographies of
mathematicians. There will also be some
links to other web sources. Many
of the readings in Dr.~Allen's book are in .pdf format so you will need an
Acrobat reader, which may be downloaded for free. There are two ways to
access the supplimentary text, one with frames and the other with out:
I find the one with frames nicer to use but your browser may not support frames
or you may have different preferences than I do.
- The assignments will be posted on
Homework . Notice that the list of
readings are for a given week (week of x where x is a Monday) with the
homework on those chapters due the Wednesday of the following week (x+9).
- Homework is due by noon CT on the listed due date (mostly Wednesdays).
- In addition to the problems, after each era please fill out
which is a good way to summarize the sociological and mathematics times
you just read about. Do not send it to me until I ask for it.
- You must do the problems using the techniques available to the time
period we are studying. Of course you may check your work with more modern
techniques, but please submit only the technique of the period.
- You may send your homework to me via email or fax (979-845-6028).
If you send by email, please make the subject line Math 629 homework i,
where i is the number of the homework set (1-14), and send the answers in the
body, in word, TeX, LatTex, or as a .pdf file, word processed or handwriten.
If you fax it to me, be
sure to mark clearly on the first page that the fax is for Dr. Sue Geller
so that it gets to me and be sure to use very black ink (and clear handwriting)
as fax transition is rarely of high quality and tends to blur what is sent.
- When working on the homework, you may email me, talk with classmates,
or look things up on the web or in a book, but you may not copy
answers - that is plagiarism.
You are expected to write a
book report on a history of mathematics topic. I encourage biographies
of noted mathematicians.
Also of great interest are books on a particular aspect of the history
of mathematics such as
- History of linear algebra
- History of abstract algebra
- The mathematical work of Fermat
- The history of probability
- The mathematics of Mesopotamia
- Fibonacci numbers
- History of mathematical encryption
- The axiom of choice
General subject and popular accounts are strongly
discouraged. The key words here are scholarly with mathematical
The book report should be 5-10 double-spaced pages.
It must be typed or word processed. It should emphasize the
of the subject.
I reserve the right to approve all titles. So,
when you have selected a book please let me know - before you purchase
it. One other important fact is that each student must select a
different book. For some acceptible books see
The book must be chosen by you and approved by me
by 3:00 pm CDT on 5 September.
The report is due by noon CDT on 12 October.
- Each paper should be typed, double spaced, and fully
referenced, but any reasonable style of referencing is acceptable.
- Length: Since people have different styles, here are two options.
Please use the one that you find most comfortable.
- 15-20 double-spaced pages
- While a complete, in-depth analysis of the topic is not expected (that
would be a dissertation or book), a superficial discussion is not sufficient.
The term paper should be a thoughtful discussion of your topic including
the appropriate mathematics and history. I want to know by
reading the paper that you learned some things and thought seriously about
- Each student must select a different topic and have it approved by me.
(First come, first served.)
- Acceptible term paper topics
The topic must be chosen by you and approved by me
by 3:00 PM CDT on 12 September.
The term paper is due by noon CST on 9 December.
Your final grade will be determined by your performance on the homework,
book report, and term paper. Since some of the work is doing problems and
writing essays, I think this course does not lend itself to numerical grades
only. So some grades may be numerical and others letter grades. The final
grade will be determined counting homework and the term paper as equal and
the book report as half of each (or 200 points homework, 200 points term
paper, 100 points book report, if we were working in points). The grading
A: Did all or almost all of the work and did it well.
B: Did a large proportion of the work well or did almost all of
the work but did some of it wrong or incompletely.
C: Did almost all the work but did it poorly or didn't do a lot of
the required work.
F: Did very little or nothing.
I realize that almost all of you are working and/or have families, so you
have different constraints than students on campus. It is very helpful to me
as well as useful for you to do each assignment on time. For example,
I know from experience, as do many
of you, that it is much harder to grade fairly when papers are graded
at various times. Therefore,
late work will not be accepted without prior arrangements, but
reasonable excuses will be accepted as long as the priviledge is not abused.
for late work, be prepared to tell me when you will get the work to me.
If you want to discuss a problem by voice (i.e. phone), please give me
some times when you will be available, and I try to call you then.
Otherwise you may call me at work at any time. I should always be in the
office during my office hours.
All email correspondence must contain the course number in the subject
heading so that I can easily distinguish it from spam and other types of
Cheating and plagiarism will not be tolerated.
Simply changing some words from a passage is still plagiarism unless you
reference the source. There is an old quip "Stealing from one source is
plagiarism, from many research." As with most quips, it is both true and
false. To be true research there needs to be something from yourself in
the essay/answer. The truth in the quip is that research is built
on the results of many before us, but they need to be given the credit for
their work for it to be morally, ethically, and legally correct.
Also, simply copying an answer from someone is both cheating
and plagiarism. Don't cheat nor plagiarize.
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The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal
anti-discrimination statute that provides comprehensive civil rights
protection for persons with disabilities. Among other things, this
legislation requires that all students with disabilities be guaranteed a
learning environment that provides for reasonable accommodation of their
disabilities. If you believe you have a disability requiring an
accommodation, please contact the Department of Student Life, Services
for Students with Disabilities, in Room 126 of the Koldus Building or
Academic Integrity Statement
"An Aggie does not lie, cheat, or steal or tolerate those who do."
Honor Council Rules and Procedures for more information.