Why we should be teaching the history of maths
From Euclid to Pythagoras, mathematics was always concerned with deep questions about the universe, yet today’s students are fed a flat diet of measuring, accounting and adding up. Kester Brewin argues that teaching students about the subject’s history would reveal to them its true significance
It was a familiar question: “Why are we being forced to do this?”
The topic was trigonometry, the students an engaged bunch who nonetheless were struggling to see where the cosine rule might apply in the futures they were imagining for themselves.
I was about to give my standard- issue answer: “You might need this if [insert tenuous-sounding connection to architecture and design].” But it suddenly sounded unsatisfactory.
I opted for a different tack. I’d just been asked to present some thoughts on the connections between mathematics and classical civilisation. So, instead, I told them ...