Math through the Ages

A Gentle History for Teachers and Others
William P. Berlinghoff
Fernando Q. Gouvêa

This is a beautiful, important book, a pleasure to read, in which the history recounted truly illuminates the mathematical ideas, and the ideas themselves are superbly explained; a wonderful accomplishment.

— Barry Mazur, Harvard University

Math through the Ages
by William P. Berlinghoff and
Fernando Q. Gouvêa
Oxton House, Farmington, ME, 2002
Paperback, 224pp., $19.95
ISBN 1-881929-21-3.

See the table of contents and sample pages.

See also the Expanded Edition!

About the authors.

How to order.

Errata and comments.

Contact us: by email at or at Oxton House Publishers, P.O. Box 209, Farmington, ME 04938.

Where did math come from? Who thought up all those algebra symbols? Who came up with the symbols for arithmetic? What's the story behind the metric system, Euclidean geometry, or complex numbers? What is it all for, anyway?

Such questions come up naturally when students are trying to understand mathematics, and history is often the place to go to find the answers. This informal and accessible book, with its 25 independent sketches and short overview of the whole history of mathematics, is a great resource for teachers and for others who are curious about mathematics and how it got that way.

Math through the Ages has been adopted as a textbook at many colleges. (Check the current list of adoptions.) As a response to requests from adopters, we have also prepared an "expanded edition", which includes questions and projects to help students attain a deeper understanding of the material.

More Comments on Math through the Ages

... it is a pleasure to find a concise, non-threatening (i.e., "gentle") survey of the history of mathematics such as Math through the Ages... Obviously the authors appreciate the insights that historical considerations bring to mathematics teaching and learning. They have produced a wonderful, skillfully crafted, highly readable resource... I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone interested in mathematics and its history. It is a great book!

— Frank Swetz, author of From Five Fingers to Infinity
and several other history of mathematics books, writing in
The College Mathematics Journal, November, 2003.

I think this book will be a wonderful resource for teachers of elementary mathematics. It not only provides a superb overview of the history of mathematics but also provides details on the development of the principal ideas of mathematics at the primary, secondary, and beginning college levels. Many of the brief chapters can even be given to students to read. I highly recommend the book for all teachers and prospective teachers.

— Victor Katz, University of the District of Columbia,
author of A History of Mathematics.

This delightfully written summary of the historical development of mathematics should be in the arsenal of every teacher of mathematics, from middle school to Ph.D. level. Brief, to the point, informative, and entertaining to boot.

— Keith Devlin, Stanford University,
author of The Millennium Problems, The Math Gene,
and The Language of Mathematics.

Very seldom does one come across a mathematics history text that can be recommended to middle school teachers as well as to those in the colleges and universities. Not only does Math through the Ages by Berlinghoff and Gouvêa provide a delightful solution to the needs of those with a wide range and depth of mathematics knowledge but little historical information, it also provides a venue for their students of mathematics. The bibliography the authors present is a treasure in itself. I highly recommend the book for every math teacher's personal library.

— Karen Dee Michalowicz
Upper School Mathematics Chair
The Langley School, McLean, VA
Adjunct Faculty, Graduate School
George Mason University, Fairfax, VA

Oxton House Publishers, Farmington, ME
Mathematical Association of America, Washington, DC
Last modified: Fri Feb 16 11:16:16 Eastern Standard Time 2007