Math plus history equals perspective in Ancient Arithmetic course

What can students learn about math by studying history? A lot, as it turns out. History provides context to some of math’s biggest questions.

In the course, Ancient Arithmetic (Math 064),  Pacific students use role-playing and history to learn how math affected some of the world’s most significant events.

“Sometimes studying math in the historical context is a way for different students to access the mathematics,” said mathematics Professor Chris Goff.

In the course, students use primary source material to role play a historic event. In the fall semester, students re-enacted the trial of Galileo, who was accused of heresy because of his explanation of how the sun and planets move.

“Everyone’s given a particular character to play and they have certain objectives in the game,” said history Professor Kris Alexanderson.

Alexanderson said the social science approach to mathematics is a way for some students who find math intimidating to learn it in an atmosphere in which they are comfortable.

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