Historical Aspects of Classroom Mathematics 2014

This page will be updated regularly according to circumstances.

Boundary conditions

Steven Wepster (for email see bottom of page)
tel. 030-253 1531.

Hans Freudenthal Building (formerly Wiskundegebouw)
Budapestlaan 6
6th floor room 611

Fridays, 14:15 to 16:00

Course description:
This course fits well in a Science & Education Master programme. However, this is NOT a general introduction into the history of mathematics. Participants investigate the emergence and the historical context of a number of subjects that populate modern highschool courses, such as: classical geometry, conics (synthetic as well as analytical), algebraical notations, early developments towards the calculus, the emergence of the function concept, analytic geometry. Extra topics varying from year to year, e.g., fortification, emergence of abstract algebra, spherical trigonometry.

A significant part of the course consists of excercises and assignments which have to be finished at home and/or with colleague students. At the end of the course, students write a paper on a research project. The best examples of projects designed in this course are collected on this page

After the course, students have a general knowledge of the history of the usual topics of highschool mathematics. Students are familiar with different ways to incorporate history in mathematics education and can identify pros and cons of using history in mathematics education. Students are able to find and use both primary and secondary sources. Students can design an activity that incorporates historical components for the learning of mathematics.

Mathematics at Bachelor level and some general knowledge of the history of mathematics. The latter may be acquired by reading a general history of mathematics textbook (for suggestions see here) and will be tested during the course. For those who fail the test there will be extra remedial work to catch up.

Students are required to have read a general introduction in the History of Mathematics (see above for link to suggested reading). We make use of a READER which is available for EUR10,-. Some necessary downloads are in this zipfile.


20% history test,
30% homework excercises,
50% research assignment.

Credits can only be awarded to participants who have attended all classes and score at least 5.5 on each of the examination categories.

A maximum of two absences is granted. Please send me an email in case you cannot attend class.

All text handed in by the students, whether worked exercises, papers, or otherwise, must be the formulation of their own thoughts. It is NOT acceptable to copy text from other places (books, journals, the internet, etc.) except when such text is put between quotes and provided with an exact reference to the source. It is NOT acceptable to change some words and subsequently pretend that the text is your own work. Failure to give sufficient references to your sources is considered as plagiarism and will be reported to the Board of Examination which can impose severe sanctions.


The schedule (in particular the excercises) is/are liable to change as circumstances require. NOT YET ADAPTED FOR 2014.
date subject excercise remarks
General introduction Hipparchos
14 Feb Euclid: geometric algebra Euclid bk.II
21 Feb Four Milennia of Algebra Snippets Snippets due next week. Ask hints when needed. Preparation: read text of Hoyrup: Four Sides and the Area
28 Feb Conic Sections Conics Some nice classroom examples in reader: Jan van Maanen, "Alluvial Deposits..."
7 Mar Classroom examples Eagle excercise Eagle text
14 Mar Trigonometry (guest lecture by Viktor Blåsjö) Excercise Slides
21 Mar Circle Quadrature
Cusanus Prospectus Deadline
28 Mar Library START AT 14:00 Sources Heidelberglaan 3, 6th floor
Roots and Logs workshop, sine table, log sine table
11 Apr Mathematical Practitioners Mathematical Practitioners images
25 Apr No class meeting
2 May Roots
9 May Analytic Geometry HISTORY TEST
16 May (pre) Calculus 7 minute student presentations
23 May Sundials? 7 minute student presentations
20 June No class, but feel free to drop into my office for handing things in, giving your feedback on the course, or just a cup of tea. office = Freudenthal Building, 7th floor, 705
time = 15:00 - 17:00
DEADLINE hand-in project

Contact: (manually change "-at-" into something more useful)
Steven Wepster
Last modified: Fri Mar 22 11:11:52 CET 2013