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Student Reports: A Rewarding Undertaking - Secondary School Assignment Formats

Frank J. Swetz

The following pages are examples of assignments from high school mathematics courses:

Algebra II    Trimester Assignment    (from Bishop McDevitt H.S., Harrisburg, Pa.)


Objective: To attain some insight into the history of mathematics by investigating the work of one or several mathematicians, or by tracing the development of one topic in mathematics.

Format: The assignment is to be presented in the form of a research paper, no shorter than five and no longer than ten typed pages, double spaced. The final bibliography is to be added to the final paper, but its length is not included in page count.

Criteria for Credit: The paper will be marked on the basis of content. Beyond the check that it lies within the proper length limits, credit will not be based on length. A paper of five pages may well be graded higher than one of ten because of quality of material. New learning should be evident. Words should be used sparingly, carefully, to express ideas. Correctness and completeness of material, signs of ideas assimilated will be sought.

Value:   The outline will count as one test grade, the paper as two.

Suggestions: Many mathematicians are worthy of note and you are free to choose the work of any one of them. Should you research a mathematician, your concentration should be on his accomplishments and ideas, with biographical material added only as a background. Many mathematical ideas will be new and perhaps interesting to you. Again, the freedom to choose any topic is yours. Those listed below are among the more outstanding and possibly easier to research, but are not meant to be the only possibilities.




Abel, N.H. (1802-1829)

Ahmes (the Ahmes Papyrus)


Bernoulli (anyone in the family)

Boole, G.

Cantor, G. (1845-1918)



Euler, L. (1707-1783)

Fermat, P. (1601-1665)

Fibonacci, L. (1175-1250)

Galileo Galilei (1564-1643)

Galois, E. (1811-1832)

Gauss, C.F. (1777-1855)

Kepler, J. (1571-1630)

Leibniz, G.W. (1646-1716)

Newton, I. (1642-1727)




Group Theory

Special Numbers

Abstract Algebra

Indian Algebra

Boolean Algebra

Babbage and the beginning of computers


Development of Calculus

Non-Euclidean Geometry

Geometry in Art



Oriental Math

Greek Math

Series and Sequences




Frank J. Swetz, "Student Reports: A Rewarding Undertaking - Secondary School Assignment Formats," Convergence (July 2007)