Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Mathematical Contributions by Women

Diane Bates


Students explore the contributions of women to mathematics by writing a research paper, presenting a summary to their peers, and sharing an activity with their peers.


The student uses a variety of reference materials, including indexes, magazines, newspapers, and journals, and tools, including card catalogs and computer catalogs, to gather information for research topics.

The student drafts and revises writing that -is focused, purposeful, reflects insight into the writing situation;-conveys a sense of completeness and wholeness with adherence to the main idea;-has an organizational pattern that provide for a logical progression of ideas;-has support that is substantial, specific, revelant, concrete, and/or illustrative;-demonstrates a commitment to and an involvement with the subject;-has clarity in presentation of ideas;uses creative writing strategies appropriate to the purpose of the paper;demonstrates a command of language (word choice) with freshness of expression;has varied sentence structure and sentences that are complete except when fragments are used and purposefully; andhas few, if any, convention errors in mechanics, usage, and punctuation.

The student uses electronic technology including databases and software to gather information and communicate new knowledge.

The student speaks for various occasions, audiences, and purposes, including conversations, discussions, projects, and informational, persuasive, or technical presentations.

The student understands how language, ideas, and institutions of one culture can influence other cultures (e.g., through trade, exploration, and immigration).

The student knows significant historical leaders who shaped the development of early cultures (e.g., military, political, and religious leaders in various civilizations).

The student understands ways in which cultural characteristics have been transmitted from one society to another (e.g., through art, architecture, language, other artifacts, traditions, beliefs, values, and behaviors).

The student understands the historical events that have shaped the development of cultures throughout the world.


-Project guidelines handout for each student
-Copies of -Women in the History of Mathematics- rubric for each student (see Associated File)
-Computer(s) and appropriate software, such as word-processing, encyclopedia, and multimedia
-Access to Internet for research (
-Various research materials for students to use
-Teacher resource materials AIMS Education Foundation's -Historical Connections in Mathematics- Vol. I 2002 ISBN 1-881431-35-5, Vol. II 2003 ISBN 1-881431-38-X, Vol. III 2005 ISBN 1-881431-49-5


1. Prepare handout on project instructions as written in section IIB, number 1-3 in the lesson.
2. Make copies of -Women in the History of Mathematics- rubric for each student.
3. Preview Web site (optional).
4. Obtain suggested resources for activity (optional).
5. Obtain or check availability of resources for student research.


I. Background: Understanding historical topics and perspectives is an integral part of the students' mathematical experience in my classroom. Students research and present before the class every nine weeks a major topic. The following procedures outline one of the projects they complete throughout the year.

A. Arrange students into groups of four.
B. Provide a handout to the students that describes the activity (see steps 1 through 3 below). Give the students a copy of the rubric at the beginning of the activity and discuss the project and grading criteria on the rubric.

1. Each group can either choose a woman from the list below or find another woman who has contributed to mathematics. (A website for research is listed in the Resource section of this lesson. This site provides biographies of women who have contributed to science, mathematics, and other fields of study.) Some women in mathematics are as follows:

Maria Gaetana Agnesi
Emilie du Chatelet
Sophie Germain
Grace Murray Hopper
Sonya Kovalevsky
Ada Lovelace
Emmy Noether
Mary Fairfax Somerville

2. Each group will conduct and write a research paper on the woman that they have chosen. The research paper must be in final document form and published on a computer (word-processing program). It should include a bibliography and focus on the woman's contributions to mathematics. Research can be done using the Internet, encylopedias, biographies, etc.

3. Using the information obtained, the group is to find or develop an activity that can be used with the class to teach about the person they have researched. If students have difficulty finding activities to use, two books that are great resources are CLASSIC MATH HISTORY TOPICS FOR THE CLASSROOM (available from Dale Seymour Publications) and -Historical Connections in Mathematics- (see Resources).

A. After the students publish their research papers, each group will present an 8-10 minute summary of its research paper to the rest of the class. Multi-media presentations should be encouraged.
B. The related activity will then be shared with the class.


A rubric is used to assess research bibliography, research paper, presentation, and activity (see Associated File).


Students need to be familiar with how to conduct research via the Internet as well as conventional sources. Students also need to have experience organizing and presenting information in a research paper.

Web Links

Web supplement for Mathematical Contributions by Women
4000 Years of Women in Science

Attached Files

Rubric to assess research paper, presentation, and activity.     File Extension: pdf

Return to the Beacon Lesson Plan Library.