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Math through the Ages: A Gentle History for Teachers and Others

Math through the Ages

By William P. Berlinghoff and Fernando Q. Gouvêa

Catalog Code: MEX
ISBN: 978-0-88385-736-6
288 pp., Hardbound, 2004
List Price: $49.95
Member Price: $39.95
Series: MAA Textbooks

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Jointly Published by the MAA & Oxton House Publishing

Math through the Ages can be used as a History of Mathematics text, as a Liberal Arts Mathematics Text, or as part of the preparation of future mathematics teachers.

“A marvelous book…very well organized and thus very user-friendly…a wonderful resource for teacher. It provides a superb overview of the history of mathematics and details on the development of the principal ideas of mathematics at the primary, secondary, and beginning college levels.”

— Victor Katz, University of the District of Columbia

“This is a beautiful, important book, a pleasure to read, in which the history recounted fully illuminates the mathematical ideas, and the ideas themselves are superbly explained; a wonderful accomplishment.”

— Barry Mazur, Harvard University

“Very seldom does on come across a mathematics history text that can be recommended to middle school teachers as well as too those in colleges and universities…The bibliography the authors present is a treasure in itself. I highly recommend this book for every math teacher’s personal library.”

— Karen Dee Michalowicz, The Langly School, McLean, VA

Where did math come from? Who thought up all those algebra symbols, and why? What’s the story behind? …negative numbers?…the metric system?…quadratic equations?…sine and cosine? The 25 independent sketches in Math through the Ages answer these questions and many others in an informal, easygoing style that’s accessible to teachers, students, and anyone who is curious about the history of mathematical ideas. Each sketch contains Questions and Projects to help you learn more about its topic and to see how its main ideas fit into the bigger picture of history.

The 25 short stories are preceded by a 56 page bird’s-eye overview of the entire panorama of mathematical history, a whirlwind tour of the most important people, events, and trends that shaped the mathematics we know today. “What to Read Next” and reading suggestions after each sketch provide starting points for reader who want to pursue a topic further.

Instructors manual available for adoption orders.

Table of Contents

History in the Mathematics Classroom
The History of Mathematics in a Large Nutshell
What to Read Next

About the Authors

Bill Berlinghoff was educated at Holy Cross, Boston College, and Wesleyan University, where he received his Ph.D. in mathematics. He is a Visiting Professor of Mathematics at Colby College in Waterville, Maine. He regularly teaches a course in mathematics for liberal arts students that draws heavily on the historical development of the subject. Bill is the author or co-author of several college texts for liberal arts mathematics, including A Mathematics Sampler (5th edition, Ardsley House, 2001). He was also a Senior Writer for MATH Connections, a Standards-based secondary school core curriculum.

Fernando Gouvêa was born in Brazil and educated at the University of São Paulo and at Harvard University, where he received his Ph.D. in mathematics. Fernando is Professor of Mathematics at Colby College, where he teaches, among other things, a course on the history of mathematics. He was a participant in the Institute for the History of Mathematics and its Use in Teaching, organized by the Mathematical Association of America. In addition to this book, he wrote p-adic Numbers: an Introduction (2nd edition, Springer-Verlag, 1997) and several other mathematics books, research papers, and expository articles.

MAA Review

When I was asked to teach a summer course in the history of math, I gave the matter a bit of thought. First: did I want to teach in the summer? (Overnight I went from “Definitely not” to “Well, for this fun course, sure.”) Second: Did I know the history of math? Well, yes I did, but I was also modest. “I don’t have a timeline in my mind,” I qualified. That was okay. But I resolved to make a timeline for my students, a physical timeline, and towards giving them a mental timeline, I decided that, if possible, I’d use a text which, in some way, gave an overview — one which didn’t get too bogged down in the many exciting details but provided some way for the students, and for me, to grasp this never-ending story, in…

Well, “in a large nutshell”.

I located several candidates, and then I came across a review of this book. Continued...


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