Wednesday, May 7, 2014

What is Math? And 5 Milestones in Math History

To me, math is the reasoning and “making sense” of the relationship between numbers.  As I’ve been (student) teaching 2nd graders over the past year, I find myself probing for why students answer in a certain way.  Not only do I want to know what they are thinking, but I want the students to be able to explain their reasoning to me and their classmates.  I hope that “math” the way I learned it - as rote memorization - is a sad and disappointing part of the past in math education.

There are so many important and pivotal points in mathematical history.  It is difficult to say that one is more important than another.  What may have seemed like an insignificant idea at one point in time may have later aided another mathematician in a major mathematical discovery.   Since I have to choose 5 milestones, these are the discoveries that seem significant to my life right now: 
·        Pascal’s triangle – provides rich material for “sense making”
·        Pythagorean theorem – plays a major role in middle school, high school, and college math
·        Euclids geometric discoveries – has a significant role in middle school and high school geometry
·        Pi – we celebrate and study this “number” from elementary school through college

·        The calculator – has eased the labor intensiveness of  studying the relationships between numbers

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