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Jan 11, 2017 11:05 AM EST

The Importance Of History In Teaching Mathematics

The Importance Of History In Teaching Mathematics
Mathematics should be a journey from past to present if we really want students to appreciate it.

Mathematics isn't just about numbers and formulas but also about history. Without history, it will be very difficult to explain why we're here as well as the beliefs and principles we have. The same thing goes with mathematics - remove its history and all you have is drudgery and a series of jumbled numbers, which is what's happening these days.

Just the mention of the word mathematics, many children and adults break into sweat and feelings of revulsion. This happens because there's no deep understanding why math is needed nor is there any substance that would make students love it. In short, there should be a journey in the past to appreciate and understand the present.

For example, do you know that the pi (π) and the papyrus have some relationship? That is, the Egyptians used the papyrus to document their method of calculating the pi.

Inn order to approximate the area of a circle of diameter 9, the Egyptians removed a ninth of the circle's diameter. Then, they built a square with sides of length to reduce the diameter of the circle. After that, they calculated the area of the square. The result of that equation is 3.16 which is not bad for ancient mathematicians.

Along the centuries, many have suspected that the pi is an irrational number and that was proven only in the 18th century. The decimal expansion of the pi will never be exhausted. Throughout history, from Archimedes to Srinivasa Ramanujan, more and more fanciful representations were created describing the fascination man has over this irrational number.

Jumping into the modern classroom, pi is presented as clinically as just the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. With that presentation, students cannot see any significance nor wonder to the irrational number that fascinated the most brilliant minds in history.

Mathematics is supposed to be an invitation to go on a journey and discover more of the world around us, to appreciate its beauty even if we cannot understand it.

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