Humanistic Mathematics

Course Description

In this seminar we will focus on the human side of mathematics, adopting a historical and philosophical approach.  We will examine some important (but accessible) results from the history of mathematics, and learn about the people who developed them. We will see that mathematics is a highly creative discipline with a rich and interesting history.  For example in the 16th Century, Tartaglia, an Italian mathematician, encoded solutions to equations in poetry!  We will also discover connections between mathematics and the humanities, exploring in particular, the relationships between mathematics and literature and mathematics and film.  Throughout our discussions, we will also explore philosophical questions, such as “Can mathematics be beautiful?'”

Syllabus

The full syllabus is available here.

Sample Exercises

To help students consider the ethical implications of mathematical research, I created this in-class exercise.

After examining some common stereotypes of mathematicians, I asked students to complete this in-class exercise to consider the impact of such stereotypes and what we can do to combat them.

In the final episode of the first season of The Bletchley Circle, a famous work by a well-known mathematician and philosopher made a brief appearance.  To prompt the students to learn more about its author, I created this short crossword.  Solutions are available here.