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Unit outline_

OLET2606: Origins of Mathematics

Intensive July, 2022 [Block mode] - Remote

The roots of mathematical thought reach as far back as the beginnings of human history, and many of the foundational ideas behind the modern standards of proof and scientific inquiry were conceived thousands of years ago. This OLE is an introductory course in the history of mathematics and its applications in the development of modern civilisation. You will learn about number systems of early indigenous Australian societies and discover the arithmetic and applied mathematics of the ancient Egyptians that made the construction of their great works possible. You will explore ancient Greek mathematics, from Pythagoras to Euclid and Archimedes, and their role in the development of contemporary science. You will learn how the ancestors of today’s numerals were conceived in India and made their way to Arab and Medieval European mathematics. You will study the Medieval mathematical understanding of the infinite. You will study primary source documents, such as the Ahmes and Moscow Papyri and Euclid’s foundational work Elements and conduct further research on a topic of your choice. By completing this unit, you will develop quantitative reasoning skills, and enhance your ability to read mathematical and technical text. You will gain a deeper understanding of the methods of mathematics and science, and how historical ideas underpin modern mathematical thought and reasoning. In your final essay, you will explore a historical mathematical topic of your choosing and use your newly attained knowledge to also review and provide feedback on the essay of one of your peers.

Unit details and rules

Academic unit Mathematics and Statistics Academic Operations
Credit points 2
Assumed knowledge

HSC Mathematics or equivalent and familiarity with basic scientific method

Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Zsuzsanna Dancso,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Online task Module 1-2 quizzes
Untimed, repeatable Canvas quizzes.
25% Multiple weeks
Due date: 12 Jul 2022 at 23:59
2x60 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO1
Participation Workshop Active Participation
Active participation in the workshop.
10% Ongoing
Due date: 14 Jul 2022 at 11:00
5 hours
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO3 LO2
Assignment Essay
Essay on a chosen topic, mark includes draft and peer review task.
50% Week -01
Due date: 31 Jul 2022 at 23:59
4 weeks
Outcomes assessed: LO2 LO3 LO4
Online task Timed Canvas quiz
Timed quiz summarising online material
15% Week -05
Due date: 20 Jul 2022 at 12:00
60 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO4 LO3 LO2

Assessment summary

25% Canvas self-grading quizzes repeatable; 15% Canvas timed quiz (one time only); 10% active participation in the Workshop; 50% Essay, including peer-review task.

Assessment criteria

Result name Mark range Description
High distiction 85-100 You demonstrate the learning outcomes for the unit at an exceptional standard.
Distinction 75-84 You demonstrate the learning outcomes for the unit at a very high standard.
Credit 65-74 You demonstrate the learning outcomes for the unit at a good standard.
Pass 50-64 You demonstrate the learning outcomes for the unit at an acceptable standard.
Fail 0-49 You don’t meet the learning outcomes of the unit to a satisfactory standard.


For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

This unit has an exception to the standard University policy or supplementary information has been provided by the unit coordinator. This information is displayed below:

For Essay, 5% each day late.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Pre-semester Early History of Mathematics Workshop (5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Early History of Mathematics Independent study (40 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 2 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 40-50 hours of student effort in total.

Required readings

See Canvas Modules and eReserve.

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. Recount and explain the early history of mathematics (Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Greek, Islamic, and Medieval European).
  • LO2. Analyse how the modern scientific method is rooted in thousands of years of discovery by cultures that differ profoundly from ours.
  • LO3. Analyse how classical techniques - engineering, geometric constructions, axiomatic methods, notational conventions - are still applicable today, and how they set the stage for scientific thinking.
  • LO4. Read and synthesise material about elementary - pre-calculus - mathematics and its history

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

Workshop has been split between two days to alleviate "Zoom fatigue". The essay length has been reduced to better fit in a 2cp workload.


The University reserves the right to amend units of study or no longer offer certain units, including where there are low enrolment numbers.

To help you understand common terms that we use at the University, we offer an online glossary.