# Thread: The history and developemnt of Maths

1. Since I can remember I’ve had a problem with Maths. It’s not that I don’t like it or find it boring, I’m just unable to relate it to anything and as a result I can’t remember anything complex. I can’t just accept something without knowing why, for example: j = the square root of -1: why? (I’m an engineering student before anyone says i = the square root of -1)

I think if I read into the history and development of maths I’d have a much better time learning it. I’m looking for how, why and when the different areas of maths came about.

Does anybody know any books/authors that could aid me?

Many Thanks,
8873tom.

2.

3. i is for imaginary, and I guess i was taken in engineering so they used j. You could call (-1)^2 k, l, m, x, or (-1)^2 if you prefer.
Can't help you with books though, I've found that to get even the shakey hold I have on small areas of maths at the moment I've had to do thousands of boring problems which build on each other excruciatingly slowly until, after a few thousand problems, you can look back and realise you've gotten somewhere.
A much more boring way to learn than reading I've found.

EDIT: (-1)^(1/2) rather :P

4. Yeah, doing problems over and over should help, but that still doesn’t give me a basis for remembering it all. No matter how many problems I do, give it a couple of mouths and it would be like I'd never learnt it!

5. You might find An Imaginary Tale by Paul J. Nahin to be useful. It's actually written by an electrical engineer. He discusses the history of i and where it came from then goes on to show what its good for. Amazon link

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/AS...232924-8440940

6. Originally Posted by 8873tom
Since I can remember I’ve had a problem with Maths. It’s not that I don’t like it or find it boring, I’m just unable to relate it to anything and as a result I can’t remember anything complex. I can’t just accept something without knowing why, for example: j = the square root of -1: why? (I’m an engineering student before anyone says i = the square root of -1)

I think if I read into the history and development of maths I’d have a much better time learning it. I’m looking for how, why and when the different areas of maths came about.

Does anybody know any books/authors that could aid me?

Many Thanks,
8873tom.

If you have a college or univercity nearby try to see if you can find someone there that can mentor you in math. There are also people in the phone book that will teach you math as well if you live in a large city. I too am not that great in upper math but can do just fine with my bookkeeping around the house or to build something using a tape measure and other tools to aid in measuring things like a sextant. Beyond that I'm at the same position you are but choose not to achieve a higher understanding of upper math for it really won't help me in my day to day activities. You must decide if you really want and need the upper levels of math before actually going into to learning about them

7. You might find An Imaginary Tale by Paul J. Nahin to be useful.
Thanks tconk, I'll keep my eye out for that.

You must decide if you really want and need the upper levels of math before actually going into to learning about them
I'm planning to start a university course in Aeospace enginerring and Astronauticsthe end of the year - I'm going to need higher Math without a dought.

8. to study history is hard. to study math is also hard...

i'd hate to try and study both at the same time!

one way to conqure those " why " questions is... this..

ok .. why is i = -1?.. i don't know.. but i belive it.. the same way i belive ... my i-pod stors all that music.. why is it there ? no band is following me around.. :wink: so why can i hear it... its just there

that .. simple explaination can explain anything you don't know why its there!

(althought i know why the music is there... it just proves that there is an explaination!!!)

:wink: obviously .. if yu want to know the history of maths.. go right ahead

9. Originally Posted by 8873tom
j = the square root of -1: why?
You really want to know why? It's because, way back, when trying to do a calculation people found they were faced with a situation where they had to take sqrt of a negative, they discovered that, if they wrote i for sqrt -1 and crossed their fingers, all would be OK in the end. And it was!
To depress you there are things called quaternions (a set of 4 imaginary numbers) and also octonions!

I think if I read into the history and development of maths I’d have a much better time learning it. I’m looking for how, why and when the different areas of maths came about.
Well it's certainly interesting, and the main reason I found it so is that most branches of modern math applied to physics depend to a disproportianate extent on the contributions of rather few, very long dead men: Euler, Laplace, Lagrange, Lie and Cartan spring to mind.

Now if this doesn't interest you, I'd be surprised. Let's have 1/2(e<sup>ix</sup> + e<sup>-ix</sup>) Want to geuss at it?
Nah. Me neither, but Euler got it. It's cos x!!

P.S Why don't HTML character codes work here? I'm trying the usual ampersand{}semicolon stuff.

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