Research
Mathematicians
in History
A WebQuest for
1112th
Grade Mathematicians
Introduction  Task  Process  Notes  Evaluation  Conclusion  Credits
Introduction
What is a mathematician? What
is mathematical
research
like? How have some
mathematicians struggled to reach their goals?
Click now to read about the first
African American mathematician and about a mathematician
who stood up for justice.
During this project your
team
will research a historical mathematician and give a report to the class
on the life and times of your subject.
Your team will investigate an
individual who has gained a doctorate in
mathematics. Such a degree is
called a Ph.D. and requires several years of intense and advanced study
of mathematics. A doctoral candidate completes a culminating research
project, called a thesis,
which is presented to
a critical panel of math professors.
One particularly rich source of information about historical
mathematicians is the Mathematicians of
the African Diaspora web site maintained by The Mathematics Department of The
State University of New York at Buffalo.
Go to the contents page and click on A Modern History
of Black Mathematicians. Read the introduction paragraph the first
510 entries. Click on each entry and briefly scan the type of
information available on the mathematicians.
The Task
Each team will produce
and
deliver a PowerPoint presentation with at least the following five
slides:
 Title page
 Historical background of the mathematician
 Personal biography of the mathematician
 Mathematical notes about his or her research
 Conclusion  put it all together
Click here
for a mock presentation you can use as a template. [No actual template
available]. Have fun modifying the template's
style parameters  be artistic.
Click here
for a basic PowerPoint tutorial and guide. [No actual PowerPoint guide
available]
Key Terms
The Process
 First, you'll be
assigned
to a research team of 3 students.
Each will choose one of the following research roles
 Biographer
 Historian
 What was the mathematician's town or country like when
he or she was working on a doctorate?
 What was it like for a person of that background in
that place and time to get a doctorate in mathematics, or just to
simply get a college education?
Start with these general references:
 WorldAtlas.com
 WorldHistory.com
 Mathematician
 What was the mathematician's thesis or research
topic? This is often mentioned on biographical web sites.
 Research something related to his or her thesis or
research
topic. You may not get a deep understanding from this
investigation but will at least define one new mathematical term from
the person's research areas, such as "Topology".
Start with these mathematical dictionaries:
 PlanetMath.org
 mathworld

Next, your group will
select a subject mathematician to study. You make pick one from the
list below or use the biographer's web references above. The
suggested research topics come from the researcher's work and can be
used by your group's mathematician.
Other mathematicians may have no
documented area of research or their thesis may be difficult to
decipher as in "Asymptotics
of determinants of Toeplitz operators on the sphere." In that case,
the job of the group's mathematician starts with trying to get some
meaning out of part of that math jargon. She or he could choose the
topic Asymptote,
or Determinant
(or suggest a different subject mathematician).
 Next a rough draft of
your slides will be due. If you have no research yet, your slide should
say something like "There is no research available yet on Isaac
Newton's mathematics."
 A final version of the
slides will be due and used to rehearse your presentation. Each slide
should have a few speaking notes in PowerPoint that expand beyond the
slide's text.
 Your group
will use the slides to present a 58 minute report on your
mathematician subject to the class. Each group member is expected to
talk for at least one minute.
 In a final seminar,
your entire class will discuss the group presentations, looking for
connections between the mathematicians.
Research Notes
Keep your slides simple. Too much
information can be worse than too little. Each slide should contain a
few key points.
As a team your group will make
decisions based on what will make a good overall presentation on your
subject mathematician. Don't stop at the first web site or two, dig
down
a little to get better explanations or content.
In some cases the historian, biographer
or mathematics researcher won't come up with much useful information
that directly pertains to the subject mathematician. Use your
imagination to make a relevant presentation. The biographer can discuss
mathematicians in general, the historian can pick a topic related the
history of mathematics the general part of the world the subject is
from.
Look for the "Search" button on most
every web site. That can lead you to specific information by using the
name of a person or places as a search string.
Evaluation
Your score for this unit
will be
the sum of these team and individual scores.

Beginning
1

Developing
2

Accomplished
3

Exemplary
4

Score

Team
Subject Information

Few
facts are cited. Information is not clear or poorly
referenced.

Information
is adequate in quantity. Not all information is significant.

All
information is significant.

Interesting
knowledge of the subjects revealed by the team's research.


Team
Coordination and Cooperation.

Team
presentation isn't planned and rehearsed.

Team
presentation shows some planning and smoothness.

Team
presentation is coordinated. Transitions are snappy.

Team
comes across as a well oiled machine.


Individual
Research Contribution

Didn't
represent team role. No significant contribution to the team's research.

Noticeable
development of team role. Contributed to the team's research.

Showed
ownership of team role. Contributed quality research to the team.

Strong
advocate for team role. Drove quality and quantity of the team's
research.


Individual
Speaking SKills

Hesitant.
Not Prepared.

Speaks
evenly and with some feeling.

Fluid
and enthusiastic speech.

Speaker
has style and appropriate pacing.


Conclusion
At the end of this WebQuest you will have researched
information on the web and created a well organized team presentation.
You have will have gained understanding of what a mathematician does
and who mathematicians are.
The amount of information from just the Mathematicians of
the African Diaspora web site may seem
overwhelming at first. However, as you start to do online research,
finding specific information on your subject mathematician may be
difficult, despite the vastness of the web.
What additional information might be available in books, magazines or
journals in school, city or university libraries? For a small slice, go
to the contents page and click on Ancient
or Modern
References. These sources were used to create the web pages on the site.
Credits
&
References
Photo sources:
Web Page and
Lesson Design by
David Louis Levine
DavidLouisLevine@msn.com
Last
updated
on March 19, 2004. Based on a template from The WebQuest Page
