30
votes
1answer
2k views

Hilbert's Hotel

Hilbert's Hotel is a famous story about infinity attributed to David Hilbert (1862-1943). Is it documented that Hilbert's Hotel is in fact due to Hilbert, and if yes, where?
16
votes
12answers
1k views

Insightful books about elementary mathematics

What are some books that discuss elementary mathematical topics ('school mathematics'), like arithmetic, basic non-abstract algebra, plane & solid geometry, trigonometry, etc, in an insightful ...
2
votes
3answers
298 views

Good Books on the history of Zero

I am looking for books that discuss the origins of the zero, specifically the differences in the use and concept of the zero number among different civilizations (considering also the Mesoamerican ...
5
votes
1answer
667 views

Why do mathematicians prefer one definition over the other when they both define the same concept?

Here is a basic, though very important, example: Hilbert takes as primary the notion of “congruence” (or “equal”) between segments. His first axiom of congruence “requires the possibility of ...
15
votes
2answers
1k views

What is the history of $\sqrt{}$

Why we use the symbol $\sqrt{}$ when we take square roots ? Anybody knows the history ?
11
votes
1answer
2k views

Is there evidence whether undergraduate math courses improve problem-solving?

The most commonly stated reason for why mathematics should be a required condition for graduating is }to improve problem-solving skills". Usually it's taken for granted that taking a mathematics ...
195
votes
72answers
78k views

Video lectures of mathematics courses available online for free

It can be difficult to learn mathematics on your own from textbooks, and I often wish universities videotaped their mathematics courses and distributed them for free online. Fortunately, some ...
33
votes
5answers
4k views

Is the boundary $\partial S$ analogous to a derivative?

Without prethought, I mentioned in class once that the reason the symbol $\partial$ is used to represent the boundary operator in topology is that its behavior is akin to a derivative. But after ...
17
votes
6answers
1k views

Uppercase Point Labels in High-School Diagrams: from Euclid?

I wonder if the convention of labeling points in geometric diagrams with uppercase symbols ultimately derives from Greek mathematics, which was originally written in "majuscule" (uppercase) Greek ...
4
votes
4answers
1k views

Less-known conjectures of significant influence and the contrary

In mathematics, it is common that theorems/results and problems appearing dull in one generation get revitalized and become the center of research in another one. Sometimes conjectures that are ...
8
votes
10answers
1k views

A place to find original papers

I currently use scholar.google.com to find papers in cases like Sophus Lie's original papers on "Transformation Groups". Does anyone know of other places that collect original works like this, i.e. ...
11
votes
10answers
3k views

Math History books

I'm teaching a course over the summer (it's a sort of make-your-own course for non-majors) and I'm planning on organizing it as a math history course, hitting on major threads through about 1900, and ...