Schedule of Talks for the 2021-2022 Academic Year
Date: Wednesday, April 6, 2022
Speaker: Prof. Walter Meyer
Department of Mathematics and Computer Science
Adelphi University
Email: meyer2 AT adelphi DOT edu
Title: The History of College Algebra. Part 1: 1894-1909, The Smooth and the Rough
Abstract: This talk reports on a project that analysed the contents of most College Algebra books in the era 1894-1909 to survey reform efforts and the environment in which College Algebra existed. Such change as occurred seems to have been mostly involuntary, caused by the uninvited intervention of the College Entrance Examination Board--the authors of the textbooks we considered seemed not to feel much need for fundamental change. An era of smooth sailing one might say. But there were rough signs that might have been unnerving. Should they have led to more novel ideas about textbooks in this area? Could they have? It is not always clear and we leave these questions to the reader's judgment.
Date: Wednesday, May 4, 2022
Speaker: Prof. Daniel Curtin
Dept. of Mathematics
Northern Kentucky University
Email: danieljcurtin42 AT gmail DOT com
Title: "A minus times a minus is minus", says Cardano. Why?
Abstract: Girolamo Cardano (1501-1576) was the most famous physician of his day, and also probably the greatest mathematician. In his Ars Magnaa, he laid out the solution for cubic and quartic equations, thus solving problems that had eluded the great mathematicians of the Islamic world. It thus comes as a bit of a shock that, late in life, he published two different articles, asserting that, contrary to the common usage, a minus times a minus should be a minus, not a plus. In all his previous works, he had taken the product to be positive. Why this turnabout? Pursuing this question, we will see Cardano considering the meaning of negative solutions to equations. Perhaps most importantly, we see him grappling with the fact that his solution to cubic equations can lead to expressions involving negative numbers under the square root, even in cases where the answer is in fact a real number, or an integer. Thus, from our point of view, he is attempting to understand the meaning of the concept of negative number.