Plane History  Chameleon Home  Ask Dr. Math 

Note to Adults Descartes is often given credit for inventing coordinate geometry, but the real situation is much more complicated. We've tried to explain some of these complexities, while remaining at a level accessible to students who have studied introductory algebra and a little bit of geometry. Here are a few suggestions for using these pages with different groups of students. Prealgebra students may be interested in the myth of Descartes' fly, Ancient Greek maps, and Fermat's version of graphing. Students in geometry or an advanced algebra course may wish to explore conic sections and the broader problem of plane loci. The evolution of coordinate geometry and the invention of calculus overlap at several points. Calculus students will be interested in Newton's essays and Leibniz's notation. Nicole Oresme's graphs were also designed to solve problems of velocity and acceleration that today we assign to calculus; discussion of his bar graph might be one way to introduce the integral. 
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