Friday, August 08, 2008

HPM 2008 Day 4

Day 4 of the conference was actually just half a day. Glen Van Brummelen talked on “Crossing Cultures, Seas and the Cosmos – In Search of the Origins of Trigonometry”. Fascinating though the history of trigonometry may be, the most interesting part of this talk for me, was the discussion he had on how to look at history. He warned against reading history as “the royal road to us”, for instance by reading original sources, but only noticing the parts that are part of the history leading to our current knowledge. This seems to put quite high demands on the teachers – for me, it will not be a question of avoiding anachronisms, but rather how much anachronisms to avoid. Too high demands on teachers in this regard will effectively mean removing all history from schools.

Kristin Bjarnadóttir held a fascinating talk on “A Puzzle Rhyme from 1782”. It is interesting to see how the “same” problem crosses borders and get immersed in new cultures.

Finally, Cecilia Costa talked about “The Alto Duoro ‘wine coopers’ mathematics”. The point was to look at what kind of mathematics is involved in making the barrels used for wine production, and this was done by interviewing the craftsmen themselves. The talk ended up in a discussion on why the barrels are not sylindrical, in which David Pengelley argued that it could make it easier to avoid leaks, while Peter Ransom argued that non-sylindrical barrels could more easily be rolled (not only in straight lines, but also in curves). I’m sure both of them have a point.

Thereby ended the HPM 2008 conference. The next HPM conference will be held in 2012 somewhere near Korea (where ICME12 will be held). But before that, there is the CERME in Lyon in January-February 2009 and the ESU in the Netherlands or in Greece in July 2010. Moreover, there will probably be other opportunities to meet the HPM family as well. But at the moment of writing, it feels good that the conference is over – my brain can’t take more input at the moment, and it will be nice to have a few weeks of vacation before trying to work on some of the issues here.

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