Monday Maths: Mathematical (Role) Models Part 2

I am not the first person to claim that maths can be fun.

Just to clarify, nobody has actually claimed that I was.  Recently, anyway.

I’m not even the first person to write about it.

Philosophy and Fun of Algebra, Logic Taught by Love, and Miss Education and Her Garden are all books written about maths and mathematical education, by the same person, way back in the 19th century.

Mary Everest Boole.*

Philosophy and Fun of Algebra is available on Project Gutenberg, if you are interested.  It looks like it would be quite a fun read, although I’ve only had time to skim it.  It waffles around the subject and gives fun facts and things to try.

I’m quite entertained by the chapter on simultaneous equations, which contains this gem:

We might write:—

x  is the unknowable;
y  is non-existent;
z  is imaginary,

and accept those as answers and give them forth to the world with all the authority which is given by big print, wide margins, a handsome binding, and a publisher in a large way of business; and so make a great many foolish people believe we are very wise.

Some people call this way of settling things Philosophy; others call it arrogant conceit. Whatever it is, it is not Algebra.

Of course, she then goes on to explain how to use actual algebra to solve equations.

But I digress.

Mary Boole was a mostly self-taught mathematician, married to a mathematician.  She helped him in his work, and attended his lectures – both of which were highly unusual for a woman in the 19th century.

She did a lot of tutoring of children to help them understand the concepts and practical applications of maths, and used playful activities such as curve stitching to demonstrate.

You could try curve stitching with Brownies.  It can range from the simple:

Source: Lwan98 (CC BY-SA 3.0)

To the incredibly complex:

Source: Wikipedia (Public Domain)

You can create mathematical curves if you know how – do a search on “string art” or “curve stitching” and you can easily find instructions.  Or you can just make pretty pictures.

Why not give it a go?


* Bonus fact: Mary’s uncle George Everest gave his name to a mountain.  No prizes for guessing which one.


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