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Topic: [HM] Invitation to teach with historical projects in discrete mathematics
and computer science

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David Pengelley

Posts: 61
Registered: 12/3/04
[HM] Invitation to teach with historical projects in discrete mathematics
and computer science

Posted: Nov 16, 2006 12:23 PM
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Dear colleague,

Are you interested in teaching topics from discrete mathematics and
computer science with projects based on primary historical sources, with
possible NSF support? Or could you forward this to a colleague who is?
Here is an update on what we are engaged in.

A team of mathematicians and computer scientists at New Mexico State
University and Colorado State University - Pueblo has developed an
innovative pedagogical technique for teaching material in discrete
mathematics, combinatorics, logic, and computer science, with National
Science Foundation support for a pilot project. Topics are introduced and
studied via primary historical sources, allowing students to participate
in the sense of discovery, and to appreciate and gain motivation from the
context in which concepts were developed. For example, we have authored
classroom modules in which students learn mathematical induction from
Pascal's "Treatise on the Arithmetical Triangle," written in the 1660's.
Another module develops the short recursion relation for the Catalan
numbers from a seminal paper of G. Lam\'e in 1838 (based on a start by

We have authored 18 modules so far; all these modules and more information
can be found at These modules will
appear in a chapter of a forthcoming MAA resource book for teaching
discrete mathematics. We found that 65% of the students who completed a
course with these historical projects performed equally well or better
than the mean GPA in subsequent mathematics and computer science courses.

We are seeking to expand our pilot program with further major support from
the National Science Foundation to create a full book with a comprehensive
collection of classroom projects based on historical sources. We would
like to invite any instructors of mathematics or computer science courses
to agree to site test future projects in related courses in discrete
mathematics, combinatorics, logic, or computer science, or perhaps even to
design your own projects. We hope to be able to provide some NSF support
as travel and/or consulting for site testers.

You can see an initial draft of the projects we are planning under the new
grant proposal at (separate from
what's already at from our previous grant
work). If you think that you (or a colleague) would be interested in
teaching with a new project during 2008-2011, we would like to hear from
you. We plan to finalize our new NSF proposal by mid-December, and would
like to attach a brief letter of support from you if you are interested.
It would be nice if it indicated the institution, the course, nature of
students, rough timeframe, why you think it would be good for your
students, and possible choice of projects for your class.


David Pengelley (
Mathematics, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM 88003 USA
Tel: 505-646-3901=dept., 505-646-2723=my office; Fax: 505-646-1064

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