Historical Aspects 2015

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On this page the information about the mastermath course Historical Aspects of Classroom Mathematics (spring semester 2015) will gradually become available. Please note that this page will be regularly updated according to circumstances.

General information

Jeanine Daems (e-mail)

Student assistent:
Margot van Es

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

Fridays, 14:15 to 16:00
(with a few exceptions where we continue until 16:45, i.e., the Library meeting and the Test)

(We can still use the classroom after 16:00, which means you can stay and work with fellow students or ask questions or talk to Jeanine after class.)

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), algebraic 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 fellow students. At the end of the course, students write a paper on a research project which will contain classroom material.

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 and some additional papers which will be made available in due course.


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

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.

Use the APA citation style in your project, see here.

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.


Please note that changes in the schedule may occur during the semester. In particular, some reading work about using history in mathematics education will be added.

date subject assignments remarks
6 Feb General introduction Hipparchos
File with students’ summaries
Preparation for next class:
read text of Tzanakis & Arcavi (reader nr 3) and summarize
13 Feb Euclid: geometric algebra Euclid book II
20 Feb Four millennia of algebra snippets Algebra snippets Preparation for next class:
read assigned text and prepare summary for next meeting
27 Feb no class
6 Mar Conic sections  Conics
13 Mar Library; start at 14.00!  Sources Heidelberglaan 3, 6th floor
20 Mar  Classroom examples  Worksheet, hand in at the end of this meeting!  Prospectus deadline
27 Mar  Trigonometry  Trigonometry
3 Apr no class
10 Apr  Circle quadratures  Cusanus
17 Apr  Roots & Mathematical practitioners introduction  Roots
24 Apr  Mathematical practitioners & vragenuur (in town)  Mathematical practitioners
1 May  Logs  Logarithms workshop (in class)  Interesting read when you are done: Logarithms: the early history of a familiar function
8 May no class
15 May no class
22 May  Analytic geometry
plus HISTORY TEST (till 16.45)
29 May  Number concepts
plus student presentations
5 Jun Evaluation, finishing touch, retake test,
plus student presentations
(Ornstein Laboratorium)
12 Jun 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. deadline: hand in project office = Freudenthal Building, 7th floor, 705
time = 15:00 – 16:30


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