Teaching High School Mathematics
I’m reading, “A History of Mathematics,” by Carl Boyer. I’m blogging about things that I think are interesting, things that I think we should teach, or areas where learning might increase by including interesting history surrounding the topic.
Chapter 3 – Mesopotamia
Quadratics – In Mesopotamia they could solve quadratics. In this book and after searching the internet it seems like the problems that resulted in using quadratics were all problems involving area. The problem listed in the book is: If the area of a square minus the side length = 870, what is the side’s length? I can’t imagine this coming up naturally. They must have made up these problems to be recreational. The previous problem would involve solving the quadratic x2-x=870. It could add some interest if we explained in class that the people from Mesopotamia could solve quadratics and give a list of their problems. We could start with… The area of a field is 250m2, and the length and width add to 35m. I think it could add a nice flavor to the beginning of solving quadratics.
Cubics – They were also able to solve some cubics in this time. I could see how they might relate them to volume, but they also were able to solve some polynomials of higher degree which I totally wonder about the motivation behind the problems.
Pythagorean Triples – ( A teacher at my school calls them “Ding-Ding,Dinger’s)
Even before the Pythagorean’s they started to find pythagorean triples. It would be an interesting activity in class to have students attempt to find as many Pythagorean Triples as possible.
This Chapter didn’t quite grip me as much as the previous ones, however, I would be more likely to use these ideas in class.