Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Black History Month Math

Although many teachers think incorporating Black History Month into the math classroom is challenging, there are many math lessons and problems that can be authentically related to black history.  Interested in a brief timeline of African American mathematicians from the 18th century to the 21st century?  A Modern History of Blacks in Mathematics does an excellent job of outlining 300 years of important mathematical contributions.
Looking for specific lessons that are age appropriate?  Black History Month Lessons & Resources is an excellent compilation created by the National Education Association.  If you are interested in more math specific resources, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics has highlighted a few key studies, articles and lessons.  NCTM Honors Black History Month includes a few excellent lessons that incorporate Benjamin Banneker's mathematical puzzles and Law of Sines.
Here is one high-quality example of a high school level math problem that can be authentically connected to Black History Month:
         The Babylonions computed square root of 2 to determine the diagonal of a square with a side of 1. This demonstrates the fact that the Babylonions knew the Pythagorean Theorem over a millennium before the Greeks did!  They discovered that in a right triangle, the sum of the squares of the lengths of the two shorter sides equaled the square of the length of the longest side.  Pick up where the Babylonions left off and prove the rest of the Pythagorean Theorem.

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