This is what I use as a bookmark. I found it in a book at a thrift store and kept it. When I saw it, I got really excited thinking I just earned 500,000 pesos. That has to be worth something, right? After reading about the various cases of inflation in Argentina, I learned that I am not in fact a millionaire. It turns out that the 500,000 note is actually worth 1/2ooth of a cent
However, seeing this got me thinking about unit conversions and history. Mathematics is not isolated from the other subjects. I feel as though by treating mathematics as a timeless subject we close off an outlet to reach our students. In figuring out how much my Argentinian bill was worth, I ended up learning a lot about economic policies in South America. What if during a unit on post world war one, math students were to calculate how much a 100 billion mark is worth today? Wouldn’t that provide a concrete example of the applications of unit conversions as well as a deeper understanding of inflation and post war Germany. What if during the unit on Greece the students learned about the Pythagorean Brotherhoods’ contributions to pure mathematics and the advent of an axiomatic approach to geometry. Wouldn’t that provide some context to the mathematics they study as well as a concrete way of remembering the effect of Ancient Greece on the modern world? What about computers and their effect on mathematics? I mean, computer programs are algorithms. Loops are summations. And the advent of the computer completely changed the world of mathematics (yahoo just calculated the 2 quadrillionth binary digit of pi by the way).
Perhaps it is me being delusional - thinking that if students understood the historical significance of mathematics they’d have a deeper interest in mathematics and a better understanding of historical periods. Maybe it is my blind idealism and inexperience thinking that departments could work together to connect their subjects. I just feel as though we’re missing out on so much amazing stuff by partitioning our content into mutually exclusive subjects.