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Importance of History of Mathematics in Math Learning Prabha Betne LaGuardia Community College Mathematics Department April 8, 2005

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Background This presentation is about an inquiry based learning project that was conducted in an Elementary Statistics class. The study involved a search of the biographical literature about a mathematician, and an inquiry into the various contributions made by him/her. Five groups of students researched their subjects using library resources, online databases, and search engines. Each group developed a PowerPoint presentation, incorporating images found on the web.

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The Assignment In this project you will research about a mathematician/statistician assigned to your group. Consider the following points to include in your research. 1.About the person (one small paragraph) 2.Some interesting situations or events in the life of this person

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The Assignment (continue) 3.Select a work of this person that relates to one of the topics included in your course. Discuss why this work was needed (what problem led to the development of the work), how this work led to the solution of that problem. For example: the famous thinker Archimedes discovered the relationship between density, mass and volume known as Archimedes principle when ordered by the King to find out if there was impurity in the King’s gold crown. You may also add your thoughts about other applications of this work.

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Goal The goal of this project was to motivate the students and give them reasons to learn more about the people and historical contexts that have led to the development of mathematics.

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Objective Students will be able to research the lives and contributions of mathematicians, discern what information is relevant, and create a multi-media presentation summarizing what they have learned. This will motivate students to learn the subject, and learn how to work in a team. They will also find ways to apply what they are learning about their subjects to the course curriculum, as well as to other fields of study or employment.

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Activity Overview Five groups of four students each were established. Each group bore the name of an important mathematician or statistician: Andrei Kolmogrov, Carl Friedrich Gauss, Florence Nightingale, John Tukey, and R. A. Fisher. The students were charged with finding out any important and interesting events in the person’s life, researching the contributions of this person to the field of mathematics or statistics, and describing at least one piece of the subject’s professional work related to topics in the course curricula. The students presented their work utilizing PowerPoint presentations.

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Example of Students’ Work http://www.lagcc.cuny.edu/ctl/dfl/sampler/docs/p betne/maria-nightinangale.ppt http://www.lagcc.cuny.edu/ctl/dfl/sampler/docs/p betne/Presentation1-tukey.ppt http://www.lagcc.cuny.edu/ctl/dfl/sampler/docs/p betne/probability-kolmogorov.ppt

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