History, Mathematics, and the Public

‘History, Mathematics, and the Public’ (HMP) is a public history project that explores effective and sustainable options for engaging the public with the history of mathematics. History of mathematics brings together the expertise of historians and mathematicians, often working in close collaboration. It can draw the public in to aspects of history that seldom get addressed - for example navigation or weather forecasting - and of humanising mathematics, a subject that can otherwise seem dauntingly abstract to many people.

Numeracy pre-dates literacy and mathematics has shaped, and been shaped by, societies all over the world for at least 6000 years and arguably over 20,000. Current concerns are developing a global history of maths, including an understanding of the place of Scottish mathematics in such a global history.

HMP complements the work of the team developing the well-known MacTutor History of Mathematics website hosted by the School of Mathematics and Statistics. The project may deliver enhancements to that site or other linked or stand-alone outputs. Examples of possible activities include:

  • creating podcasts or videos for MacTutor
  • enhancing the Mathematically Curious St Andrews walking tour for online or in person audiences
  • developing and running workshops in local schools or the Wardlaw museum
  • researching the history of Maths in St Andrews through documentary and image sources, material objects, or oral history

Each semester, the team will agree the focus of activity for that semester and work together to develop materials, implement activities, and evaluate their success. Some team members may lead on research, locating sources and images, and interpreting both the mathematical and contextual elements for the public. Other team members may explore how best to engage the public and develop evaluation and sustainability plans. This could include market research, business planning and marketing, as well as the development of both digital and non-digital public engagement packages. HMP provides opportunities for all students to gain teamwork and entrepreneurial skills.