MA-149 History of Mathematical Ingenuity

Lectures: MW 11:30 - 12:45, Room 001 Stanger

Instructor: Professor Shai Simonson Office: 306 Stanger

Phone: x-1008 (Voice mail). E-mail:

Home Page:

Office Hours: MTWTh 1-2, or by appointment.

Texts: Journey Through Genius, William Dunham

Puzzles, Mazes and Numbers, Snape and Scott

Course Goals:

To appreciate mathematics as an art form with its own place in the history of human development.

Examinations and Assignments:

There will be 1 midterm exam and 1 final exam, each worth 100 points. There will be bi-weekly problem sets which will be done partly in class and partly at home. These, combined with your class participation are worth 150 points. You will always have the opportunity to rewrite any assignment or take-home exam, with your final grade being the average of your original and the rewrite.


All assignments are done in groups of two or three people who will work together the whole semester. Everyone in each group gets the same credit. The idea is to promote discussion and experimentation in problem solving. If you cannot find a group yourself, I will find one for you.


Each group must make a 30 minute presentation on a particular mathematical topic. The class is responsible for material presented in these groups. I will give you plenty of help in organizing materials, choosing topics, and preparing an appropriate interactive session. A 5-10 page paper about your topic and your experiences researching it, should be submitted by the end of the semester. Your group should meet with me individually by the midterm to choose a topic, and then periodically afterward for discussions and progress reports. You should submit a first draft of your paper before your presentation and a final draft anytime afterwards. The presentations will be given during the last 3-4 weeks of class. The presentation and paper are worth 150 points.


Your grade will depend on the total number of points that you accumulate on your examinations and assignments, and on your class participation. You can guarantee yourself a certain grade by reaching a certain total score out of the 500 point maximum, (e.g. 450 points guarantees you an A, 400 points, a B, etc.). These cutoffs may be lowered based on the curve for the class, but they will NOT be raised. This is to your advantage.

Academic Honesty:

There is never an excuse for cheating or plagiarism. If you feel that are losing it, then please see me as soon as you can. I will try and help with any difficulties you experience during the semester with regard to techincal material, group dynamics or personal issues. If it is determined by me that anyone has acted without academic honesty and integrity, then they will get no credit for that particular work. If a second incident occurs, then they will receive an F for the course, and the incident will be reported to the dean who will decide on any further discipline.