# History of Mathematics

## Is Zero a Factor of Zero?

Generally speaking, if $$a \times b = c$$, then $$a$$ and $$b$$ are factors of $$c$$. This concept appears at the secondary level in two contexts: The factors of positive integers, and the factors of a polynomial. If we limit…

## Pascal, Pacioli, Probability, and Problem-Based Learning

I’m currently reading Howard Eves’s Great Moments in Mathematics After 1650 (1983, Mathematical Association of America), a chronological collection of lectures. The first lecture in this volume (the second of two) is on the development of probability as a formal field of…

## Geometry for multiplication, division, and roots

Contemporary plane geometry of the sort taught in the standard American high school is most heavily informed by two books and a third mathematician. The first of these is Euclid’s Elements, which is so conceptually tied to planar geometry that…

## Indefinite vs infinite

I have borrowed from a colleague a copy of G. A. Wentworth’s Plane and Solid Geometry, copyright 1899 and published 1902 by The Athenæum Press of Boston. I enjoy reading old textbooks because they either reinforce or give lie to certain…

## Defining a Line

The version of Geometry most widely taught in high schools in the United States is an amalgam of the two most basic fields of geometry: Synthetic and analytic. The mixing of these two is done in such a way as…

## Al-Jabr (continued)

In my previous post, I looked at the first two detailed examples provided by al-Khowarizmi in his compendium, the title of which gives us the word “algebra”. Al-Khowarizmi discussed three types of mathematical objects: Numbers (N, constants), roots (R, unknowns),…

## Al-Jabr

The word “algebra” comes to us from the title of a book, Hidab al-jabr wal-muqubala written by Abu Abdallah Mohammed ben Musa al-Khowarizmi (there are variations in the transliterations of both the title and the author) around AD 825. He was…