This summer is going by SO FAST and I can hardly believe it! This weekend I was putting the finishing touches on my history project. As I was wrapping up this project (and by wrapping up I mean finishing a draft of a paper that I am sure I will end up re-vising and re-writing parts of again), I reflected on two interesting "history" experiences.
The beauty of the experience.
I think that the history of mathematics and the history of mathematics education projects are beautiful experiences. With the history of mathematics projects/investigations, I feel closer to mathematicians and mathematics. With history of mathematics education projects/investigations, I not only feel closer to mathematics, but I also feel closer to other people, like students and teachers. For example, a couple months ago while looking through a book from the 1800s I found pages and pages .... and pages of four leaf clovers! Although investigating number lines with negative integers is a complete joy, the day that I found the four leaf clovers felt like my "lucky" day. I could just imagine the student placing all their "luck" into their treasured (well, hopefully treasured) math book. Another day, I found a funny saying on the insert of the book. The owner of the book wrote, "If you steal this book, you son of a gun, you will have to fight or run." This made me laugh. I truly enjoy these experiences, just as much as scholarly investigations.
It's a small world after all.
Mathematicians will often share their "Erdos Number." People that have are Field Medalists or Nobel Prize winners often have small Erdos numbers. This means there is a small line of lineage from their work to the work Paul Erdos, an amazing contemporary mathematician and, quite arguably, the best mathematician of our time. More can be learned about Paul Erdos and the Erdos number here.
However, if we go back in history, long before Erdos, I would say that one my favorite mathematicians is Gauss. Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss is one of my favorite mathematicians to teach about because of the many topics encountered in algebra that can relate to him: number theory, summations, proof by induction, Guass-Jordan algorithms, etc. In particular, I like to share a Gaussian childhood story about how he computed the integers 1 to 100 in a matter of seconds. And, I also like to share my Guassian lineage with my students too (and, thus, their lineage). I may not have an Erdos number, but I am, in fact, the 10th "grand-student" of Gauss. This research was intially done at the Mathematics Genealogy Project website by Jeffery Bergen.
(1) Friedrich Bessel was a student of Gauss and received his degree in 1810.
(2) Heinrich Sherk was a student of Bessel and received his degree in 1823.
(3) Ernst Kummer was a student of Sherk and received his degree in 1831.
(4) Paul Du Bois-Reymond was a student of Kummer and received his degree in 1859.
(5) Otto Holder was a student of Du Bois-Reymond and received his degree in 1882.
(6) Emil Artin was a student of Holder and received his degree in 1921.
(7) Max Zorn was a student of Artin and received his degree in 1930.
(8) I. N. Herstein was a student of Zorn and received his degree in 1948.
(9) Jeffrey Bergen was a student of Herstein and received his degree in 1981.
(10) Nicole Enzinger was a student of Bergen and received her degree in 2009.