Sharing Teaching Ideas: Not Just Another Theorem: A Cultural and Historical Event

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The typical student rarely gets a chance to hold an old, powerful piece of history. In mathematics, teachers have the opportunity to present just such museum pieces; and furthermore, the class can verify their truth. Too often, however, students cringe in the face of proof and thus miss their chance to appreciate the treasure. Mathematics teachers can impress these future doctors, lawyers, politicians, and journalists with some jewels of mathematics; and teachers do mathematics a disservice if they skimp on the presentation. Since students and teachers have the time, the intelligence, and the materials to demonstrate the validity of a theorem, they should take advantage of this opportunity and privilege. Significant results in the history of thought that students can understand should be occasions for great drama. The high school mathematics sequence includes proofs of the quadratic formula, the Pythagorean theorem, the fundamental theorem of integral calculus, and other results. In this article, I suggest rolling out the red carpet for the proof of an important theorem. I focus on the Pythagorean theorem; the interested reader can easily adapt the treatment to any theorem that is worthy of unusual notice.

Contributor Notes

Michael McDaniel Aquinas College, Grand Rapids, MI 49506

(Corresponding author is McDaniel
The Mathematics Teacher


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