Let’s Play Math blog > Internet Math Resources > Math History on the Internet



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Math History > Most Valuable Sites

The MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive: My favorite place to begin any foray into math history. Highlights include:

La Habra High School’s Math History Timeline: Math discoveries, publications, and other tidbits‌—‌from paleolithic number bones to the present.

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Math History > General Resources

Ancient Science and Mathematics: Many assorted links, including several chapters from String, Straightedge & Shadow.

Biographies at Wolfram MathWorld: Long, long list, and each biography is linked to explanations of the mathematician’s major discoveries.

Biographies of Women Mathematicians: Indexed alphabetically, chronologically, and by country of birth. Includes modern news tidbits, too.

A Completely Inadequate Bibliography of the History of Mathematics: Most of the following books are aimed at the professional non-mathematician (i.e., someone to whom the land of mathematics is an interesting place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there).

Convergence: An online magazine from the MAA offers a wealth of resources to help you teach mathematics using its history.

Galileo and Einstein: Overview and Lecture Index: Lecture notes on the history of math and physics, from Babylonian counting to the theory of relativity.

Mathematicians of the 17th and 18th Centuries: Adapted from A Short Account of the History of Mathematics, by W. W. Rouse Ball.

Mathematicians of the African Diaspora: Black men and women of mathematics, in history and in the present.

Mathematical Quotation Server: I love quotations! No matter what I want to say, somebody else has probably already said it better.

Math Forum History Listings: “631 items found.” No, I have not checked them all. Go browse for yourself!

Math History and Mathematicians Pages: Julie Brennan at Living Math is building an index of links to biographical information, famous quotes, activities and book suggestions to accompany a homeschool math history course. [Sample lessons.]

The Story of Mathematics: The history of mathematics is nearly as old as humanity itself. It has evolved from simple counting, measurement and calculation, and the systematic study of the shapes and motions of physical objects, through the application of abstraction, imagination and logic, to the broad, complex and often abstract discipline we know today.

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Math History > By Topic

Abacus: The Art of Calculating with Beads: The abacus through history, how to make and use an abacus, and classroom ideas.

Archimedes: This site is a collection of Archimedean miscellanea under continual development. See also: Prehistoric Calculus: Discovering Pi, Archimedes’ Approximation of Pi, and The Archimedes Palimpsest.

Earliest Known Uses Of Common Mathematical Symbols and Words: Research for these pages is ongoing, and a citation should not be assumed to be the earliest use unless it is indicated as such.

Euclid’s Elements: David E. Joyce brings the text of Euclid’s 13 Books to life with Java applets. See also: An Introduction to the Works of Euclid.

Famous Problems in the History of Mathematics: This site includes problems, paradoxes, and proofs that have inspired mathematicians through the ages, plus links for further exploration.

A Golden Sales Pitch: There is little evidence to suggest that the golden ratio has any special aesthetic appeal… When a myth is repeated over and over, it begins to sound like truth.

Historical Overview of Pi: A brief history of pi , from ancient Babylon to modern computers. Lots of links, including a relationship between pi and the Fibonacci numbers.

The History of Measurement: There were unbelievably many different measurement systems developed in early times, most of them only being used in a small locality.

Hypatia of Alexandria: Lots of links, including The Primary Sources for the Life and Work of Hypatia of Alexandria. See also: Hypatia, the First Known Woman Mathematician.

MacTutor Topical Indexes:

Mathematical games and recreations: The whole history of mathematics is interwoven with mathematical games which have led to the study of many areas of mathematics.

The Mathematical Problems of David Hilbert: With a link to Hilbert’s 1900 address to the International Congress of Mathematicians in Paris, surely the most influential speech ever given about mathematics. Wolfram MathWorld has an annotated list of all 23 problems.

MathPages History Topics: A wide assortment of tidbits for advanced students.

Slide Rule History: The slide rule has a long and distinguished ancestry … from William Oughtred in 1622 to the Apollo missions to the moon.

Who was Fibonacci?: A brief biographical sketch of Fibonacci, his life, times and mathematical achievements. See also: Fibonacci, A Man of Many Numbers.

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Math History > Cultures or Time Periods

Ancient Africa: Part of the Mathematicians of the African Diaspora website.

History of Egyptian and Mesopotamian Mathematics Page: An excellent resource for my Alexandria Jones stories.

History of Mathematical Education: What topics of mathematics have been taught in different cultures and time periods? Why have these changed?

MacTutor Mathematics in Various Cultures:

Mathematics in Specific Cultures, Periods or Places: A short collection of links. This site also contains: Websites relevant to the History of Mathematics.

Mesopotamian Mathematics: From the earliest tokens, through the development of Sumerian mathematics to the grand flowering in the Old Babylonian period, and on…

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Math History > For Elementary/Middle-School Students

Adding with the Abacus: What did people do to save time working out more difficult problems before the calculator existed?

Alexandria Jones and the History of Math: Several of my Alexandria Jones adventures involve math history. Browse down the page to see the stories I have posted, and watch for more coming soon.

Ancient Greek Mathematics
Selections from String, Straightedge & Shadow:

Archimedes & Large Numbers: A brief look at Archimedes, Avogadro, and Cantor. See Approximating Pi for an interactive demonstration, or Prehistoric Calculus: Discovering Pi for a more in-depth explanation.

Calendars: Calendars were one of the earliest calculating devices developed by civilizations.

Egyptian Math: Could you survive in the world of Egyptian numerals and mathematics? [Note to teachers: The Egyptian Math Worksheet Creator looks like fun!]

Eratosthenes’ sieve: Click on any number, and all its multiples (except the number itself) will disappear from the chart. See also: Murderous Maths Prime Numbers Page.

Eureka! The Achievements of Archimedes: Click “next” to read the pages one by one, or browse through the Index.

Famous Problems in the History of Mathematics: This site includes problems, paradoxes, and proofs that have inspired mathematicians through the ages, plus links for further exploration.

Fibonacci Numbers and Nature: Learn about the Fibonacci numbers and why they appear in various “family trees” and patterns of spirals of leaves and seeds.

History of Fractions: Did you know that fractions as we use them today didn’t exist in Europe until the 17th century?

History of Measurement: To work effectively and share goods fairly, people had to find ways to measure their stuff. See also: Measure for Measure.

Leonardo da Vinci Activity: Is the ratio of our arm span to our height really equal to 1? See also: Teacher Lesson Plan and Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man.

Negative Numbers: Among the earliest people to use negative numbers in calculations were the ancient Chinese. See also: The History of Negative Numbers.

Pascal’s Triangle: Lessons and links for all grade levels. See also: All You Ever Wanted to Know About Pascal’s Triangle.

Pi, a Very Special Number: Over the centuries, mathematicians kept looking for better values for pi.

Platonic Solids: With printable nets, so you can make your own models. Part of the wonderful Maths is Fun site — take some time to explore!

Pythagoras: Pythagoras believed that everything in the world could be explained by numbers. See also: All Is Number.

ThinkQuest History of Mathematics: Brief overview of math history, with biographies of influential mathematicians and short online quizzes.

Women in Maths: Ever wondered why stories about mathematicians always seem to be about men? …There were a few women who dared to go against the flow.

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Feature photo above by Fractal Ken via Flickr (CC BY 2.0). For more resource suggestions, check out my Math with Living Books pages.


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