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[Mathematical texts from across time indicate that the needs of the societies of different eras and different places have guided practices in mathematics itself and in how it was taught at school, responding to the needs and exigencies of each age. In some cases, even new discoveries were seen as part of a collaborative effort, rather than the product of individuals—the classic example being the Pythagoreans, who worked as a group to do mathematics (Heath 1921). A similar social attitude has emerged in the current Information Age, as evidenced by projects such as PolyMath, spearheaded by renowned mathematician Tim Gowers—a worldwide project involving mathematicians from all over the globe collaborating through the Internet to solve problems (Nielsen 2012). PolyMath started in 2009 when Gowers posted a famous problem on his blog, the density version of the Hales-Jewett theorem, asking people to help him find a proof for it. Seven weeks later, Gowers wrote that the problem had probably been solved, thanks to the many suggestions he had received. Since then, the PolyMath project has become a global collaborative project, recalling not only the ancient Pythagoreans but, in recent times, the Nicolas Bourbaki group of French mathematicians, who initially wanted to design updated textbooks for teaching contemporary mathematics in the post-World War II era under this pseudonym, rather than under the name of any one individual.]
Published: Dec 11, 2020
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