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Title of Lesson: Famous Mathematicians

Grade Level:


Subject Area:

Math and History

Instructional Goal:

Learning about mathematicians and the implications of their contributions.

Submitted By:

Mark Heeg and Trudy Driskell


Supply List

Learning Strategies

Communicate Results

Performance Objectives

Computer Hardware and Software Required

Prerequisite Student Skills

Evaluation Procedures

Instructional Strategies


Time Frame

Set New Challenge


Related WWW Sites

Career Connections



The history of mathematicians unfolds the story of man's struggle to explain the quantitative aspects of the world in which he lives.

Performance Objectives:

Students in groups of two will research a particular mathematician.

Student groups will write a research paper about the person. The research papers of the entire class will be combined to make one book which will be left in the classroom as a resource for other students and to be viewed by other classes.

Student groups will build a model of the mathematician's concept that was proven or instrument developed by the person. A picture taken with a digital camera or any camera will be added to the student's research paper in the book.

Technology is used for the research, for the explanation of the model and for the report about the mathematician.

Instructional Strategies:

After an introduction about famous mathematicians, the teacher invites her class to study about these men and women remembered for their contribution to the mathematics. A timeline can be started around the classroom depicting the people and the time and country in which they lived and worked. A world map can depict the countries such as Egypt, Babylon, Assyria, Greece, Rome, Western Europe and relate the countries to the mathematicians that the students choose to study.

A list of mathematicians can be printed from web sites and each student group choses one of the famous men or women. There are 550 mathematicians alone in one web site suggested below!

The assignment:

Some suggested mathematicians:


The teacher should become familiar with all resources available at the school for student research on mathematicians. Web sites can be bookmarked or lists of mathematicians posted from web sites for students to easily use as resources. World map is in the room with small cards and pins for identifying home countries of the mathematicians.

Supply List:

World Map, stick pins, color paper for creating a timeline

Computer Hardware and Software Required:

Computer, color paper, HyperCard, HyperStudio, Timeliner by Tom Snyder Publications, World Atlas CD-ROM and encyopedia CD-ROM. Digital camera. Internet connection.


Books about mathematicians and hardcopy encyclopedias from the school library.


Related WWW Sites

Bibliography index

Excellent information on mathematicians.

History of Mathematics: Egyptian Math, Pi, Magic Squares, Chinese Arithmetic, Mathematical World


Site for information on the history of mathematicians.


Foundations of Greek Geometry

The birth of Greek astronomy has been attributed to Thales of Miletus. 

Pi through the ages

Archimedes and other mathematicians are discussed along with the derivation of Pi.


About Galileo and his studies.

Learning Strategies:

The teacher "proposes" the area of investigation. The teacher can excite the students about this projects by telling the students about some of the famous mathematicians. The students in the class may have some knowledge from past studies that can be shared in class. Facts about mathematician's lives is not the focus of this lesson. The students should come away with an interest in learning more about these mathematicians and an overall appreciation for these mathematicians. The students, when creating their models, should have the opportunity to discuss their model with other students and with the teacher. Applying the the knowledge that was learned from the research of the mathematician to the created model design will be the problem-solving part of this lesson for students. Every student will have a different "construction" of knowledge, so the assignments will vary considerable. The teacher and students should decide what the criteria for evaluation is before the students begin their search for information. Brainstorming with the students about software that can be used and sources of information is important. Flexible time limits may be required and some students may want to use this assignment for a science fair project.

Prerequisite Student Skills:

Research skills and some computer skills required.

Time Frame:

One Week

Career Connections:

Historian and mathematician

Communicate Results:

The research reports are collected and shared with class members and the models are presented to the class.

Evaluation Procedures:

The teacher and students have decided upon evaluation criteria which has been posted in the classroom from the beginning of the assignment.

Set New Challenge:


M.C. Escher ( ) was a famous artist whose works have been used to teach mathematical concepts.

Use this web site, or the sites mentioned below, to create some interest in art/math/geometry. Tessellations (designs in which one or more shapes are placed in a pattern without gaps and without overlapping) are lots of fun for students and a great way to reinforce math skills. There are tessellations in Islamic art as well as the work of M. C. Escher. Students can then can experiment for themselves using a graphics program like ClarisWorks Drawing or Painting to draw and copy shapes, slipping and rotating them to see if they can be placed in patterns that meet the criteria given. By beginning with one geometric shape such as an equilateral triangle, a student can experiment with positioning and color to create a pattern. He or she can then attempt to tessellate more complicated shapes or combinations of shapes.

Gallery of Interactive Geometry

Suggeseted Resources:

The World of M. C. Escher, Locker, J. L.

M. C. Escher: Visions of Symmetry by Doris Schattschneider, 1990, W. H. Freeman and Company: New York.

M. C. Escher Art

View Escher images here

Escher's Art Museum


A place for browsing, learn and becoming familiar with some of Escher's best works.



Self-Portrait of M. C. Escher

View his self-portrit


Welcome to the World of Escher

This site has a biography and some of his pictures to view

David McAllister's Escher Image Collection

View images of Escher art here.


This site is no longer being maintained, but will remain online for the use of educators.