MA318      Half Unit
History of Mathematics in Finance and Economics

This information is for the 2016/17 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.


Students must have completed Mathematical Methods (MA100).

 General Course students may substitute an equivalent course.

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 10 hours of classes in the LT.

Formative coursework

Students are expected to submit written work on a weekly basis. One of these assignments will be a short essay of 1000-1200 words.

Indicative reading

The course is based on source material which will be distributed to students as hard copy. J. Stedall’s ‘History of Mathematics: A Very Short Introduction’ (Oxford 2011) is recommended for background reading.


Exam (70%, duration: 2 hours, reading time: 5 minutes) in the main exam period.
Essay (30%, 1650 words).

The assessed essay is due for submission at the start of the Summer Term.

Key facts

Department: Mathematics

Total students 2015/16: 27

Average class size 2015/16: 27

Capped 2015/16: No

Value: Half Unit

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