Annette C. Pyzik


"Mathematics is the alphabet with which God has written the universe."


| Introduction | Task | Process | Resources | Evaluation | Conclusion |Teacher Notes |


NASA is using its Hologram technology to create a program that simulates the intelligence of famous mathematicians. Their goal is to produce a think tank of mathematicians that will assist in solving problems related to the appropriate advancement of technology. They are interested in a diverse group that works well together and is creative.

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It is the job of your group to select the mathematicians that will be included in this pool. Each person in the group will research an individual using a critical eye for identifying strengths and weaknesses with reference to their cultural influences, influences from world affairs, their contacts with other notable mathematicians, their creativity, and their ability to produce new strategies. You will create a portfolio, including a cover letter, for the mathematician you choose to research. Role playing this mathematician, you and the other mathematicians in your group, will present a solution to a problem.

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You will work in groups of four to complete this webquest. There are three parts. Each student will complete two sections independently and a third section will be completed as a group. The following lists the steps you and your group will take to complete the project.

Step #1:

Each student will explore websites on mathematicians and choose one. Research this mathematician using the Resource section of this webquest gathering biographical and professional information as well as world affairs and cultural influences. Create a portfolio of this mathematician with pertinent information that will convince NASA of the importance of including this mathematician in their think tank. The following questions might be helpful.

1. How did the discovery of this mathematician’s theory evolve from the need to solve real world problems?

2. How did this mathematician’s theory influence art, music, philosophy, and the climate of opinion?

3. How have the climate of opinion and the general culture influenced this mathematician’s theory?

4. How was this mathematician influenced by other mathematicians? How did this mathematician influence others?

5. What has been the lasting effect of this mathematician’s discovery on mathematics, on technology, in other fields of study, on real world problems?

The above questions were adapted from the January 1999 issue of Mathematics Teacher published by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

Step #2:

As a group choose a problem from the Resource section to investigate. With each member of the group playing the role of their mathematician, the group will act like a mini-think tank and explore the solution to the problem. The results of this investigation will be presented to the class.

Step #3:

Each student should revisit their portfolio and include in it a description of their contributions to the solution of the group problem in Step #2. Each student should reflect on the experience and type a cover letter for the portfolio to give NASA an influential preview of the mathematician.

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Click on the title to enter into the list of resources for each section.

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Your project will be worth 100 points and be graded using the following rubrics. Each student will receive an individual grade for the Portfolio (45 points) and Cover Letter (10 points) and a group grade for the Problem Solution (45 points).
Click on the title to enter the rubric for each section.

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You have examined the interdependence of culture and mathematical thought. You have solved a problem by approaching the solution from differing perspectives. Your experience will help you to synthesise your knowledge of algebra and geometry. For further development of this webquest return to the Resource section and find mathematicians that are presently living. Contact a mathematician, present the solution to your problem, and receive feedback.


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Teacher Notes

Grade Level: 10th, 11th, 12th

Length of Lesson: two months


The Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics, published by NCTM in 1995, stated the following Standard (#2). "In grades 9-12, the mathematics curriculum should include the continued development of language and symbolism to communicate mathematical ideas so that all students can appreciate the economy, power, and elegance of mathematical notation and its role in the development of mathematical ideas."

The draft of Standards 2000, published by NCTM in 1998, proposed the following for the Mathematics Content Overview. "Connections across content areas and with areas outside of mathematics can become increasingly rich as students' mathematical knowledge grows. Students should engage with complex problems that call for knowledge drawn from multiple areas of mathematics and to which various solution strategies might apply."

Students view mathematics as isolated concepts. The objective of this WebQuest is to integrate student experience of a departmentalized mathematics curriculum into a broader scope. This will be accomplished by…

1.examining the interdependence of culture and the development of mathematical thought

2. solving problems using multiple areas of mathematics while approaching the solutions from various directions.

Interdisciplinary Connections:

Prerequisite Learning:

Be prepared to support students in the following areas during the project.

  1. choosing a mathematician appropriate to their mathematical ability
  2. choosing a problem appropriate to their ability

Teacher Resources:


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