June 8, 2007

Math Mag's Greatest Hits

In its various incarnations, Mathematics Magazine, which is published by the Mathematical Association of America (MAA), has been around for more than 75 years. All issues of the Magazine, as long as they are more than three years old, are available on the Web through the JSTOR archive, a database to which many college libraries and other institutions subscribe.

Use of the JSTOR archive has been increasing steadily over the years since the Magazine first became available in this form in 2002, and it's now possible to see which of its hundreds of articles have been particularly appealing or useful. Here are the fifteen most frequently viewed articles to date:
  1. "The Golden Section and the Piano Sonatas of Mozart" by John F. Putz. October 1995, 68:275-282.
  2. "Rigor and Proof in Mathematics: A Historical Perspective" by Israel Kleiner. December 1991, 64:291-314.
  3. "The Influence of Mathematics on the Philosophy of Descartes" by R.H. Moorman. April 1943, 17:296-307.
  4. "Hypatia of Alexandria" by A.W. Richeson. November 1940, 15:74-82.
  5. "Humanizing Mathematics" by R.C. Archibald. November 1932, 7:8-11.
  6. "The 2500-Year-Old Pythagorean Theorem" by Darko Veljan. October 2000, 73:259-272.
  7. "The Number System of the Mayas" by Gary D. Salyers. September 1954, 28:44-48.
  8. "The Evolution of Group Theory: A Brief Survey" by Israel Kleiner. October 1986, 59:195-215.
  9. "Zero: The Symbol, the Concept, the Number" by Carl B. Boyer. March 1945, 18:323-330.
  10. "Descartes and Problem-Solving" by Judith Grabiner. April 1995, 68:83-97.
  11. "Assigning Driver's License Numbers" by Joseph A. Gallian. February 1991, 64:13-22.
  12. "Mathematics and Literature" by D.O. Koehler. March 1982, 55:81-95.
  13. "Good-bye Descartes?" by Keith Devlin. December 1996, 69:344-349.
  14. "Another Proof of the Fundamental Theorem of Algebra" by Daniel J. Velleman. June 1997, 70:216-217.
  15. "The Evolution of Mathematics in Ancient China" by Frank Swetz. January 1979, 52:10-19.
Interestingly, the list includes articles from every decade of Mathematics Magazine's existence, except the 1920s. The topics are widely varied, though there is a distinct bias toward the history of mathematics. And the name Descartes appears in three of the titles! Curiously, the article "Humanizing Mathematics" is simply a four-page list of books (including several devoted to puzzles and recreational mathematics) and articles (selected mainly from the Mathematics Teacher), compiled by R.C. Archibald of Brown University in 1932.

Several of the top articles are also available in the new MAA book The Harmony of the World: 75 Years of Mathematics Magazine, which features 38 selections from the archive.

For anyone who does not have access to the JSTOR archive at a local library, these articles will soon be available individually from JSTOR for a fee (and they can be found in a Google search). MAA members also have the option of obtaining an individual subscription to JSTOR, which provides access to the full archives of not only Mathematics Magazine but also The American Mathematical Monthly and The College Mathematics Journal.


Alexanderson, G.L., ed. 2007. The Harmony of the World: 75 Years of Mathematics Magazine. Mathematical Association of America.

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