This volume had its origin in a Contributed Papers Session on “Using History of Mathematics in your Mathematics Courses” at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in 2006. Rather than simply being a set of articles about the history of mathematics, the work attempts to be immediately useful to the classroom teacher. To a large extent, it succeeds in its goal.
The individual chapters (the editors call them Time Capsules) in the volume are very mixed in style, content, mathematics level, and length. Although this has some benefits (there is something here for everyone), it also has some drawbacks (a lack of uniform style makes using the text more difficult). I will first comment on some of the problems with the book before describing its (many!) great qualities.
The variations in the chapters go deeper than just the writing style. Some of the chapters include a section of problems and questions for students. Others do not. Still others include questions, but only in an appendix in an unlabeled section. The chapters are laid out in a uniform and very useful way, with consistent sections: Introduction, Historical Background, In the Classroom, and Conclusion — except sometimes they aren’t. Of the 35 chapters, about ten do not follow this format (including, puzzlingly, four authored by one of the book’s editors). In practice this means that while many of the chapters can be easily adapted for classroom use, some cannot.
These quibbles, however, ought not distract us from the large amount of good work and excellent content contained therein. Many of the chapters are quite wonderful. I mention a few of these to give an overall flavor of the book:
As can be seen from this small sample, there are a wide range of topics covered, and a wide variety of styles in which chapters are written. Together they compose a valuable offering to the classroom teacher. I have recommended this book to high school teachers with an interest in incorporating history in the classroom, secure in the knowledge that they can pick up the book and start to use it immediately.
In summary, this is an interesting and useful book, which lives up to its stated goals.
Dominic Klyve is an assistant professor of mathematics and statistics at Central Washington University. He enjoys mathematics, history, and time capsules.