Inclusive Math History

Pile of old books

Earlier this month, Anna announced on Twitter “It’s finally happened, I got tapped to teach History of Math. Since I cover so much of the euro white guy stuff in number theory, I want to do a People’s History of Math. Who must I include? I want some ladies! I want some Asia/Africa/S.America! (And don’t tell me Emmy Noether.)” To date, her post has gotten 189 replies, many of which include resource recommendations and other ideas. Here is a collection of resources (both from that thread and from elsewhere) for folks who are curious about the subject or perhaps even interested in developing their own take on “a People’s History of Math.”

“Toward humanizing undergraduate mathematics education: A re-imagining through historical perspectives in mathematics” by Luis A. Leyva.

Leyva wrote this post on the AMS inclusion/exclusion blog. He wrote that his post was inspired by Sara Hottinger’s book, Inventing the Mathematician: Gender, Race, and Our Cultural Understanding of Mathematics. 

Leyva’s post summarizes “Hottinger’s distinction between internalist and externalist historical accounts and their respective influences on the construction of mathematical subjectivities. This is followed by a discussion of how Hottinger’s insights can be applied to re-thinking pedagogical practices in undergraduate education that challenge traditional representations of mathematics as void of sociohistorical contexts and personhood,” he wrote. It also includes references to other related works.

Biographies

This list of mathematician biographies and this sublist of women mathematician biographies (both maintained by the University of St. Andrews, Scotland) were recommended by @DynamicsSIAM.

Consider incorporating primary sources

In the Twitter thread, Evelyn Lamb recommended Mathematical Expeditions by Reinhard Laubenbacher and David Pengelley, particularly for the chapter on Fermat’s Last Theorem, which “has an excellent section on Germain’s work on the problem,” she wrote.

Later in the thread, she wrote “Back to primary source point, I think college math Ss are used to seeing ideas after they’ve been very well-digested. Getting them to engage with primary sources really helps them (& us) think about how we know what we know I think college math Ss are used to seeing ideas after they’ve been very well-digested. Getting them to engage with primary sources really helps them (& us) think about how we know what we know [about the] past.”

Mike Lawler also shared the link to his post “An attempt to share some Katherine Johnson’s math ideas from Hidden Figures with my son” on his Mike’s Math Page blog.

Some typesetting considerations

On his Division by Zero blog, David Richeson wrote about using XeTeX (rather than LaTeX) to “typeset Egyptian hieroglyphics, Babylonian cuneiform, and Chinese rod numerals” for a history of math course he taught.

Have favorite resources on the history of math from diverse perspectives? Feel free to share them with me in the comments or on Twitter @writesRCrowell!

This entry was posted in History of Mathematics, Issues in Higher Education, K-12 Mathematics, Math Education, people in math, Uncategorized, women in math and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Inclusive Math History

  1. Evelyn Lamb says:

    The conversation with Anna inspired me to write about Gary Urton’s book Inka History in Knots, which is about reading khipus as primary sources. It’s great! My review is here: http://www.evelynjlamb.com/inka-history-in-knots-book-review/

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