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New York, New York
Class will not meet Tuesday, November 3rd.
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Class Level: Beginner
Age Requirements: 21 and older
Average Class Size: 14
Teacher: Suman Ganguli

What you'll learn in this lecture class:

What is algebra? This question is not as simple as it seems. In this course, we will explore the meaning and extraordinary mathematical power of algebra through a study of its historical development. We’ll begin with so-called classical algebra—or the invented use of letter symbols (variables) to represent numbers and the rules for their manipulation. 

Using variables led to the key concepts such as polynomials and a focus on solving equations–a focus that drove the development of algebra for a millenia, from Babylonian cuneiform tablets to the influential 9th-century treatise “?is?b al-jabr wa’l-muq?bala” (Calculation by Completion and Balancing) by al-Khwarizmi. Next, we’ll explore the development of symbolic algebra (initiated by the Latin translation of al-Khwarizmi), the utilization of cubic equations, which gave rise to complex numbers, and Descartes’s breakthrough invention of an X-Y coordinate system, which tied together for the first time algebra and geometry. 

Finally, we’ll explore the multiplicity of algebras that blossomed in the 19th century till today: linear (matrix) algebra, which arose from solving system of linear equations; “abstract” algebra, which defined algebraic structures such groups, fields, and rings; and Boolean algebra, which treated logic algebraically. Throughout, we’ll ask: how does algebra undergird the ways we interpret, organize and manipulate the world? 

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  • Upon request, we will refund less 5% cancellation fee of a course up until 6 business days before its start date.
  • Students who withdraw after that point but before the first class are entitled to 75% refund or full course credit.
  • After the first class: 50% refund or 75% course credit.
  • No refunds or credits will be given after the second class.


Brooklyn Institute for Social Research

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School: Brooklyn Institute for Social Research

Brooklyn Institute for Social Research

The Brooklyn Institute for Social Research was established in 2011 in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. Its mission is to extend liberal arts education and research far beyond the borders of the traditional university, supporting community education needs and opening up new possibilities for scholarship in the...

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