Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Unit 1

The Primes

Ishango Bone Ishango Bone

The properties and patterns of prime numbers—whole numbers that are divisible only by themselves and one—have been a source of wonder across cultures for thousands of years, and the study of prime numbers is fundamental to mathematics. This unit explores our fascination with primes, culminating in the million-dollar puzzle of the Riemann Hypothesis, a possible description of the pattern behind the primes, and the use of the primes as the foundation of modern cryptography.

Unit Goals

Video Transcript


It is often said that Mathematics is a universal language. No matter one's culture, country, gender, race, or even religion, certain mathematical principles remain true. The fundamental letters of the mathematical alphabet are known as the primes.



Long studied for their mysteries, many of which remain unsolved, primes were, until relatively recently, solely the concern of mathematicians. With the explosion of digital communications and our dependence on Internet transactions, however, primes now play a pivotal role in other areas, as well.


Figurate Numbers

Some of the first people to study numbers as objects were the Pythagoreans. One of the most important properties to the Pythagoreans was a number's shape. This interactive illustrates how playing with numbers can lead to mathematical discoveries.


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