I created this matching activity a couple years ago to show students that math is always in a state of progress. When we say “what’s the formula?” we might not think twice that someone had to prove that the formula works. Additionally, this makes for great conversations! What are your guesses for when these moments of math history were made?

Some common responses I hear from students are that the first woman to receive a PhD in math is in 1976, and that “x” was used in algebra in ______ BC. Or that calculus was invented in ____ BC as well.

Ready for the answer?

After I reveal the answer, we have conversations about it. I like talking about Sonia Kovalevsky being the first woman to receive a PhD in math and how she had to get a fictitious marriage to pursue her doctorate, since women needed permission from their father or husband at the time. I also like talking about the 4 color theorem because it used to be the 5 color theorem. This shows that math is constantly changing because we learn new information. Lastly, I like talking about the square root 2 being proven irrational because I get to talk about the Pythagoreans and how Hippasus suggested that square root 2 was irrational but that wasn’t well-received by the other Pythagoreans.

An activity like this helps students see that math is a process and who knows what new math findings students 300 years from now will learn about.

Thank you for reading! Let me know if you do an activity like this!