Using History in Math Class


The purpose of this Web site is to encourage and facilitate the use of the history of mathematics in the teaching and learning of mathematics at all levels. Gerald L. Marshall created it as a Ph.D. project under the guidance on his mentor Dr. Beverly S. Rich during the spring of 1999. Any questions or comments on this site should be addressed to them using the e-mail links above.


Some of the most useful Internet sites on the history of mathematics that provide assistance for the inclusion of history in the mathematics classroom are identified, described, and hyperlinked via relevant URLs below. These sites have been tentatively divided into five broad categories. Some sites may fall in more than one category. However each site appears in what seemed to be the most relevant category.



Using history in mathematics classes helps to increase motivation for learning. This category includes sites that promote the use of history in mathdmatics classes, sites that provide examples where this concept has been applied, and sites that post bibliographies and additional links that allow for extended research. A teacher can find samples of classroom proved projects here.

An online report on the Institute on the History of Mathematics and Its Use in Teaching, 1999 edition may be found on the on the Web server at the Mathematical Association of America. Fernando Q. Gouvea hosts it.

Mathematical Connections, an on-line publication on the history and philosophy of mathematics, presents applications of history of mathematics in the classroom. Keith Luoma at Augusta State University manages it. Of particular import are the articles by Mary Garner and Karen Dee Michalowicz. In one of these there is a list of fifteen reasons for using history in mathematics education.

The Moldy Oldies: Life Stories of Mathematicians by and for Kids posted by Kathy Heller at College Station gives a collection of Web pages developed by her 4th graders. They provide excellent examples of how research, history, and mathematics can be interconnected even in the lower grades.

Teaching with Original Historical Sources in Mathematics managed by David Pengelley at New Mexico State University offers experiences and materials from using original historical sources in teaching mathematics. It contains articles on and about history of mathematics and its role in teaching.

Using Original Sources in a History of Mathematics Class contains a reading list and a collection of discussion questions and homework problems for using original sources in a history of mathematics class. Gary Stoudt, who has participated in the Institute on History of Mathematics and Its Use in Teaching, maintains it at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

The Collected Works: Index on the Web server at Cornell University since 1996 provides an extensive bibliography of collected works and correspondence of mathematicians. Steven Rockey developed it over many years while working as a mathematics librarian. The items are assessed by authorís name on the Index page.



One way to humanize mathematics is to share biographical facts with students. A better way is to have them do biographical research. This division identifies and describes only a few of the many wonderful sites on the Internet that provide biographies of mathematicians. It includes sites that have pictures or portraits and that list mathematicians alphabetically or by ethnic origin or by geographical location. An instructor can quickly find anecdotes on notable mathematicians to share.

In the Hall of Great Mathematicians maintained by David Collins, Jr. at Southern Illinois University, one finds an alphabetical list of famous mathematicians with short biographies.

Some Famous Mathematicians may be found at the Central University of Venezuela. It provides information on about 20 people and is hosted by Alexander Velasquez.

Past Notable Women of Mathematics posted by Elizabeth Mary Freeman of Yale University contains historical data on women in computing and mathematics.

The Biographies of Women Mathematicians has a large collection of biographies on female mathematicians arranged in both alphabetical and chronological order. Larry Riddle at Agnes Scott College is its manager. It illustrates the numerous achievements of women in the field of mathematics.

Mathematicians of the African Diaspora highlights the accomplishments of the peoples of Africa and the African Diaspora in the mathematical sciences. This encyclopedia of the connection between Blacks and mathematics is hosted by Scott Williams of the State University of New York at Buffalo. It has around 200 Web pages divided according to ancient (prior to 1700) and modern history of mathematics.

Portraits of Statisticians contains an alphabetical presentation of over 200 statisticians including pictures. It is located at the University of York, England and kept up by Peter Lee.



A historical development can help to provide order to the presentation of mathematical ideas in the curriculum. This section identifies some Internet sites that list mathematicians by dates, sites that provide timelines, and sites that give information on the first use of a mathematical term or symbol. The classroom teacher can devise homework exercises that incorporate problems from historical texts.

The History of Mathematics at the University of Utah presents a limited number of mathematicians in both an alphabetical and chronological fashion.

The History of Mathematics Home Page maintained by David Joyce at Clark University provides valuable information on mathematicians arranged chronologically and by the following regions: Europe, Greece, Japan, China, Arab Sphere, India, Egypt, and Babylonia. It also contains data by subjects and timelines.

Mathematics: Ancient Science and Its Modern Fates maintained by Frans van Hoesel presents exhibitions donated by the Library of Congress on the mathematics and astronomy of the Greeks.

The Mathematician's Birthday Calendar was first created by 8th grade students to earn extra credit. Judy Ann Brown maintains it at The Math Forum.

Welcome to a Mathematical Journey Through Time is maintained by Frances Rosamond at the National University. It provides an interactive timeline from 3000 BC to the present and beyond.



A person's understanding of a concept is improved when he/she knows how it has developed over time. This category includes sites that develop mathematical subjects, historical topics, and famous curves. An instructor can provide historical introductions to concepts that are new to their pupils.

The MacTutor History of Mathematics archive is the preeminent site on the World Wide Web for information on the history of mathematics. It probably contains as much information as all the rest combined. It has 1300 biographies, 60 famous curves, 30 history topics, chronologies, birthplace maps, and posters. John OíConner maintains this site at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

Richard Westfall (deceased) formerly at Indiana University in Bloomington developed The Catalog of the Scientific Community. It presents a collection of 631 detailed biographies on members of the scientific community (164 are mathematicians) during the 16th and 17th centuries.

Earliest Uses of Various Mathematical Symbols identifies the names of individuals who first used various common mathematical symbols and the dates the symbols were first used. Jeff Miller at Gulf High School in New Port Richey, FL hosts it.

Mathematics Archives -Topics in Mathematics - History of Mathematics has organized Internet access to a wide variety of mathematical resources including materials that are used in the teaching of mathematics. Earl Fife supports it at the University of Tennessee.

History of Mathematics has a limited number of pages on mathematicians from Europe, China, India, and Egypt. It also includes a section on special topics. Len Berggren at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, Canada hosts it.

NWOSU Math History Bibliography is an annotated bibliography of mathematics history Web pages. Sheila Brintnall at Northwestern Oklahoma State University provides upkeep for this site.



By exploring the history of mathematics, a pupil can increase his or her excitement and interest in mathematics. This catchall category contains locations with abstracts, informal notes, and on-line discussions and courses. A teacher should encourage the creation of posters and papers that have an historical theme.

David Wilkins at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland hosts The History of Mathematics site. It contains an archive of biographies of 17th and 18th century mathematicians and various mathematical papers.

MathNet Links has provided Internet information services for mathematicians since 1996. It provides a virtual forum for scholarly discussion of the history of mathematics. Vincent Winczewski moderates it at Konrad-Zuse-Zentrum fur Informationstechnik (ZIB) in Berlin, Germany.

Math Pages: History of Mathematics provides some informative notes on the history of mathematics. Kevin Brown posted it on the Web.

British Society History of Mathematics Home Page contains some 50 pages written by prominent British academics working in the history of mathematics. It includes abstracts and other resources. Eleanor Robson maintains it for the BSHM.

The Math Forum Internet Mathematics Library - Math Topics - History/Biography located at Swarthmore College houses a large collection of articles of general interest to students of the history of mathematics that are presented in a compact outline form that is easily browsed.

Globewide Network Academy has an online distance education catalog that currently lists more than 200,000 courses and programs. A search for "history of mathematics" identifies 5 courses at 5 accredited universities in the United States.

Lasted updated on October 2, 2000.