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A Brief History of Convergence

 

In August 2002, Victor J. Katz (University of the District of Columbia) and Frank J. Swetz (Penn State University Harrisburg) secured an NSF grant to explore the possibility of launching an online magazine devoted to the history of mathematics and its use in teaching. They envisioned reaching the instructors of secondary and early undergraduate students with articles explaining the history of various topics taught in this age range, translations of original sources, and historical problems. The magazine's content was to be housed within a then-current MAA project, the Mathematical Sciences Digital Library (MathDL). See the initial press release here.

Convergence went live in 2004, with funding from a second NSF grant. By then, these additional categories of content had been formulated: book reviews, classroom activities, a daily listing of historical events that happened on that date, daily quotations, and announcements of past and future meetings relevant to readers using the history of mathematics to teach mathematics. A pre-launch call for submissions may be found here. By the end of the 5th volume in 2008, 57 articles had been published by over 50 individuals or groups of authors. Additionally, 125 reviews of books, websites, and posters had been prepared.

In 2009, MAA re-conceptualized MathDL, in part consolidating Convergence, the Journal of Online Mathematics and its Applications, and Digital Classroom Resources under one umbrella called Loci. As indicated by Convergence's tables of contents, this nomenclature continued into 2013. Katz and Swetz turned their duties over to Janet L. Beery (University of Redlands) and associate editor Kathy M. Clark (Florida State University) in 2009. In 2014, Beery became sole editor and received permission to form an editorial board, which subsequently grew from 10 to 13 associate editors.

Since 2013, Convergence has been officially classified by the MAA as a hybrid journal / book series. Its journal features continue to include

  • expository and research articles about the history of various mathematical topics;
  • articles featuring translations into English of original sources on these topics, accompanied by commentary explaining the work and its context; and
  • articles outlining historically-based classroom activities and projects;
  • a collection of 343 photographs of mathematicians taken by Paul R. Halmos published as a weekly series from 2012 to 2013, in partnership with the Archives of American Mathematics; and
  • teaching resources such as our hundreds of “Mathematical Treasures,” an ever-expanding collection of digital images of mathematical objects and texts from various libraries, museums, and scholars. (Additional history of this Convergence feature is posted here.)

 The book-like features of Convergence include:

Since its beginning, Convergence has aimed to take particular advantage of its format as an “onscreen publication”—a subset of the MAA website, rather than a typical electronic journal consisting of pdf downloads—with animated components as well as copious images and hyperlinks. Indeed, GeoGebra applets began to appear in the second article published. As of mid-2019, Convergence's resource bank for using history to teach mathematics includes over 180 articles and nearly 900 Mathematical Treasures.

Today, Convergence and MAA Reviews continue to be the most-visited areas of the MAA website.1 In addition to promoting mathematics teaching and learning, Convergence fosters communication among the mathematicians, mathematics instructors, historians of mathematics and mathematics education researchers who are its contributors and readers. Both the journal’s focus on the use of history to inform student learning and classroom practice and its onscreen format distinguish Convergence among other professional publications devoted to mathematics, history or teaching.


Notes:

1. From 2008, the number of book reviews appearing in Convergence dwindled until the feature was discontinued after 2016. History of mathematics and its use in teaching now falls within the purview of MAA Reviews.

"A Brief History of Convergence," Convergence (June 2019)

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