MA318      Half Unit
History of Mathematics in Finance and Economics

This information is for the 2013/14 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Norman Biggs


This course is available on the BSc in Actuarial Science, BSc in Business Mathematics and Statistics, BSc in Mathematics and Economics, BSc in Mathematics with Economics and BSc in Statistics with Finance. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit. This course is available with permission to General Course students.


MA100 or its equivalent.

Course content

This course surveys the development of mathematics from the beginning of history with an emphasis on its applications to finance and economics. Major themes are the development of arithmetic and geometry, the use of algebraic symbolism, the creation of the calculus, geometry, probability, and game theory. In order to give this course a distinctive flavour, we will illustrate these themes with examples taken from the social sciences, broadly interpreted. For example, the algorithms of arithmetic will be illustrated by their applications in finance, rather than astronomy.


20 hours of lectures and 9 hours of classes in the LT. 2 hours of lectures and 1 hour of classes in the ST.

Formative coursework

Students are expected to solve exercises on a weekly basis and occasionally present these solutions in class. Students must also submit one essay of 1000-1200 words.

Indicative reading

The recommended text for the core of this course is J. Fauvel and J. Gray, The History of Mathematics: A Reader (Macmillan 1987). Also there will be a full course pack of excerpts from various authors.


Exam (70%, duration: 2 hours) in the main exam period.
Essay (30%, 1650 words) in the ST.

Key facts

Department: Mathematics

Total students 2012/13: 6

Average class size 2012/13: 6

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information