Mathematics and History
I had a limited understanding of what I could do with math when I was in school, which was as much my fault for being narrow-minded as anyone else’s fault for not showing me the incredible breadth of mathematical applications. This ultimately contributed to an unsatisfying experience in graduate school and a departure from math, which I talked about in this story.
So as a teacher I make sure students know that math will always create options for them. I tell them that whatever they decide to study — science, humanities, the arts — they should keep taking math classes as long as they enjoy them. There are quantitative aspects to every discipline, and knowing math will always set them apart and give them an edge in their field.
Recently a student asked me about how mathematics could be applied to the study of history. She is passionate about studying both, but sees them as disconnected and unrelated. I had a few answers for her, but I was looking to provide her with more. So I put out a request on Twitter.
— Patrick Honner (@MrHonner) November 3, 2018
The response was remarkable. I learned a lot, and so did my student! Here is a brief summary of the great resources, links, and ideas that were offered.
- Mathematical Methods in Historical Chronology, an article in the Notices of the AMS
- Metric Geometry and Gerrymandering
- Quantitative History
- Network Models in History
- Looking at History Through Mathematics, book by Nicholas Rashevsky
- Social Sequence Analysis
- Optimal Matching
- Determining authorship of historical documents using statistical methods
- Dating procedures
- Applying Game Theory to the story of historical conflict (Cold War, etc)
- Building historical games (like Civilization and Age of Empires)
There were many more responses, and I recommend looking through the Twitter thread. Thanks to everyone for contributing, and for helping to keep one more student studying math.