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Illustrating The Nine Chapters on the Mathematical Art: Their Use in a College Mathematics History Classroom

Joel K. Haack (University of Northern Iowa)


Between 2003 and 2013, the MAA organized and offered Mathematical Study Tours, providing a wonderful opportunity for its members to travel to countries and regions that are important to mathematics, the history of mathematics, and mathematics education. Professionals from those countries welcomed the MAA travelers and shared their knowledge with us in lectures, formal panels, and informal discussions.

Figure 1. The travelers on the 2006 Mathematical Study Tour visit the Institute for the History of Natural Sciences in Beijing, China.

The mathematical leader of our tour was Dr. Yibao Xu, Professor of Mathematics at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, who sadly died too young in 2013; this paper is dedicated to his memory.

Figure 2. Tour leader Yibao Xu is shown in the Forbidden City, Beijing, outside an exhibit displaying mathematical and scientific instruments from the interaction between Chinese and western science between 1644 and 1795 (photo by the author).

The purpose of this paper is to provide photographs that help illustrate various statements that have been made about the significance and practical nature of the Nine Chapters. I use them in my classes on the history of mathematics to help the students internalize the various statements that we make about the Nine Chapters. The paper itself is based on my presentation at the January 2008 Joint Mathematics Meetings in San Diego as part of the MAA Session on Using Ideas from Asian Mathematics in the Classroom.

Joel K. Haack (University of Northern Iowa), "Illustrating The Nine Chapters on the Mathematical Art: Their Use in a College Mathematics History Classroom," Convergence (April 2017), DOI:10.4169/convergence20170401