Topics-Hist Of Math

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    In all cases, your responses should be clearly organized and should make specific reference (with citation) to the primary texts. You should address along the way each of the questions contained in your chosen topic, but your essay should not just be a bullet-point response, but rather a reflection on the topic that synthesizes your thoughts on the various individual questions. You may want to (and in some cases will have to) read beyond our assigned passages. Do not hesitate to take a stance, nor to raise a question that you find puzzling and might want to think about more. 500-600 words is an appropriate length. 


Return to the three versions of (in our terms) “solving a quadratic equation” that we encountered in the first week of class: the Babylonian tablet YBC 6967, Proposition II.11 of Euclid’s Elements, and the passage from Chapter V of al-Khwarizmi’s Al-jabr wa’l-muqabala. As we have mentioned, what is or is not classified as “algebra” has been a source of considerable controversy in recent historywriting; but as with many phenomena, the label we choose for it is a poor substitute for thinking carefully about it. Go through these three texts carefully, and describe similarities and di↵erences between them. Formulate a (provisional! you need not swear by this at any later point) definition of “algebra” or “algebraic reasoning.” Explain what motivates your definition, and describe to what extent each of these texts conforms to your definition.  

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