Crossing a river

There’s an interesting article about the links between Mathematical History and games. It’s not something that I could use directly in class, but is useful background for me – I might use extracts from it I suppose.

It does spark a thought, though – I could do Dad’s river crossing game with students – weigh them and then get them to work out how they could all cross the river, then get them to do it in practice!

How to integrate the history of maths?

There’s an excellent article on the history of maths. I can see the value of including the history of maths in lessons, although I think it is one area of the curriculum that could really suffer from becoming a tick-box if the teacher and/or the pupils don’t understand why it is being included. The article cites some really useful rules: only include it if it helps pupils to better understand some concept i.e. it is helpful for them to know where the concept came from. I can imagine this might be true for something like Pythagoras’ theorem, where by showing students the problem Pythagoras was trying to solve it can show them why the theory is useful. But in other cases I can really imagine that us adults fail to remember that history is generally less interesting than we think it is!

It could also be a really useful way to add a global dimension to maths, particularly in relation to the Arabic tradition. Or linking Maths to Art and Design.

For me as a teacher in practice, I can imagine introducing history of maths by trying to put the students in the position of those who made the discovery, by posing a problem and then giving them the information that the discoverer would originally have had. I could then ask them to teach the way they solved the problem (and the history surrounding it) to others.

Another example could be code-breaking in WWII – this could be a really interesting task to set students, who must communicate with one another without the other team understanding those communications.