Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Mathematicians Through Time

Kim Douberley


This lesson offers students the opportunity to conduct research on the Internet about mathematicians and to synthesize that information into a timeline.


The student uses electronic technology appropriate to writing tasks (including but not limited to the Internet, databases and software) to create, revise, retrieve, and verify information.

The student understands chronology (for example, knows how to construct and label a timeline of events).


-Internet-accessible computers
-One copy of the Finding Facts Activity Sheet for each student (See attached file)
-Mathematicians Timeline Activity Sheet for each student (See attached file)
-Blackboard or overhead
-Overhead transparencies of Mathematicians Timeline
-Chalk or overhead transparency pen


1. Copy Fact Finding Activity Sheets, one for each student. (See attached file.)
2. Copy Mathematicians Timeline Activity Sheets. (See attached file.)
3. Make transparencies of Mathematicians Timeline Activity Sheet.
4. Verify that students have approved Internet access parental permission slips.
5. Schedule time for computer lab use or a rotation schedule for classroom computer use.
6. Visit Weblinks.


Day One:
(Using computers)

1. Open the class session by having the group make a list of as many mathematicians as they can recall. Record names on board or overhead.

2. Discuss the important contributions that mathematicians have made in the development of society.

3. Explain that the students will be researching different mathematicians on the Internet and gathering specific information about five different people. The information they record will be used on Day Two in creating a Timeline of Mathematicians.

4. Hand out the Finding Facts Activity Sheet and review with students each of the items in section one. (See attached file.) Explain what is expected as an answer in each item. (Example: The major contribution that the mathematician made should be listed in the studentís own words.) One or two sentences are sufficient in this item.

5. Have students launch Internet Explorer or Netscape and go to one of the sites in the Weblinks section of this lesson.

6. Remind students that they are going to pick five different mathematicians to research and that they may go to more than one site to research information. They must, however, be sure to record their web source for each mathematician referenced.

7. Circulate during the activity and help students locate important contributions made by each mathematician and support those having difficulty locating URL sites.

Day Two:
(Classroom activity)
1. Have students look at their Finding Facts Activity Sheet from the previous day. They will need to review the birth dates of each mathematician.

2. Have students number their mathematicians in chronological order on their research page.

3. Hand out the Mathematicians' Timeline Activity Sheet to students.

4. Using the Mathematicians' Timeline model for students (on blackboard or overhead), list one example and how they should review the information on the mathematician and list it on the timeline. Indicate to them that the major contribution should be written in complete sentences.

5. Complete the activity for each of the mathematicians listed until all five are place chronologically on the timeline.

6. Assess students' timelines. (See Assessment.)


Day 1:
The studentís Fact Finding Activity Sheet will include five mathematicians with source-citing Internet URL, each person's birth date (June 3, 1629 or 300 BC), date of death, birth place (city and country), and major contributions to the field of mathematics written in students' own words. (See attached file.)

Day 2:
The studentís Mathematicans' Timeline will include five mathematicians, a correct chronology of those selected mathematicians with each person's birth date (June 3, 1629 or 300 BC), date of death, birth place (city and country), and major contributions to the field of mathematics written in complete sentences. (See attached file.)


Extensions: If students have access to a computer lab with drawing software, it is very easy to allow them to use a template of the timeline to produce the Mathematicians Timeline in that application (Paint, AppleWorks Drawing). While doing the first dayís activity, allow students to download a graphic of the selected mathematicians to a folder on the computer. These can be inserted as a graphic into the timeline on Day Two, after students add the information to the timeline.
This activity could be used in a variety of research/timeline formats, including the following: inventors, inventions, scientists, explorers, monarchs, women, African Americans, etc.

Modifications - Recommend using only WEBLINKS site: Allmath Mathematiciansí Biographies for ESE and ESOL students as the readability level is much easier to understand than the other two sites. For these same students, you could also cut the requirement of five mathematicians to three or less for both the research activity and the timeline activity.

Web Links

This listing offers a great listing of multiple sites for each listed mathematician. It is relatively easy reading, and some of the sites offer pictures of the mathematician.

This site is easy to use as it allows students to see an alphabet. They click on each letter to find a short biography of different mathematicians with that chosen letter.
Math History

This is an easy-to-use site for a quick overview of the mathematicians. It offers a very brief biography of the mathematician and is written at a level easy for any fifth through eighth grade student to read and understand.
All Math

Attached Files

Fact Finding Activity Sheet and a Mathematicians' Timeline.†††††File Extension: pdf

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