Program Overview
Gelato, Geometry and Galileo: Experiential Math History in Italy

Experience Italy as we unveil the "secret history” of math. Despite the importance of mathematics in culture and science, most people know nothing about its history. Explore the scientific inventions of Leonardo da Vinci and the mathematical instruments of Galileo in Florence. Use your skills to calculate the angle of inclination of the Leaning Tower of Pisa and learn how Brunelleschi used geometry to construct the magnificent dome of Florence Cathedral. Experience first hand the underground crypt of St. Peter's Basilica. Drink water from fountains that are still supplied by aqueducts built two thousand years ago and learn how brilliant Roman engineering provided fresh water to an ancient city of a million people.  Marvel at the innovative architecture of the Pantheon. Eat gelato and pizza and enjoy the flavors of Tuscany! In Sicily, Rome and Florence, Italy we’ll take an experiential approach to discovering the role mathematics played in architecture, art, engineering and inventions.
We will study how mathematical ideas have developed over time, how social, cultural and historical factors have influenced the development of mathematics and conversely, how mathematics contributed to society and human culture. The course traces the historical development of mathematics from ancient to modern times with an eye toward situating bare mathematical facts into meaningful intellectual and historical context. We will “meet” the mathematicians, read from their original writings, and see where they lived and what they created. Meet Archimedes, da Vinci, Galileo, Michelangelo and more!
Siracusa & Catania:  The birthplace of Archimedes.  Study the geometric discoveries of Archimedes and how his understanding of infinity relates to modern calculus.  Study mechanical inventions (lever, screw) and their impact on society and engineering.   Study how Archimedes impacted engineering, art, and other inventions.
Rome: Awareness of the interplay between Roman engineering and the spread of the Roman Empire. Romans borrowed from other cultures (like the Etruscans), making modifications.  We will see evidence of the scope of their building projects both in terms of size and ingenuity, and learn how these were built and financed.  Viewing Roman sites will help students appreciate the significance of Roman arches, their aqueduct water system, and architecture (dome structure of Pantheon).  Study the influence of Roman architecture and engineering in the other cities we visit, especially Florence.
Florence and Pisa: The birthplace of the Renaissance; Galileo, Leonardo DaVinci, Michelangelo and many other famous Renaissance figures lived and worked here.  We’ll get to know these important mathematicians/scientists/artists within their cultural setting by seeing where they lived and worshiped, the instruments and tools they and the works they produced. We’ll see the role mathematics played in architecture, art, and inventions. We’ll learn about the political make-up of Italian city-states of the Renaissance and the role that played in the development of mathematics.
Course Information & Pre-Requisites
M291/M491 co-convened. 3 credits To take M491, students are required to meet the co-requisite OR pre-requisite of M330. In this case M491 will count as a 3 credit elective towards a major in the math sciences or a minor in math. To take M291 the pre-requisite is M273.

Dates Abroad
May 10-May 23, 2020

Hotels some with kitchenette units.

Included by the vendor are 9 breakfasts, 3 lunches and 3 dinners.   Estimates of costs of additional meals are 5 euro for breakfast, 5-10 euro for lunch depending on appetite, and 10-15 euro for dinner.

Program Fee

Faculty Leader Information
Dr. Christina Hayes

Application Deadline:  November 29, 2019    Decision Date:  December 6, 2019  

  • APPLY ONLINE HERE through My Global Connection.  A complete application includes: 
      • $300 Faculty Led Application Fee
      • Official Transcript
      • Acknowledgement of Faculty Led Participation and Pre-Departure Requirements
      • Additional Application Information
      • Faculty Led Application Short Essay
      • FERPA Information
      • Health History Form
      • Passport Information
      • Complete an interview with the Faculty Leader 
      • Upon program acceptance, confirm participation and complete Post-Acceptance Application Materials in My Global Connection

      Please contact Wendy Rivers, Faculty Led Coordinator

Have questions? Click to see drop-in advising hours.


Language of Instruction: English

Language Prerequisites: None


Minimum GPA: 2.5


Housing Options: Lodgings


Program Type: Faculty Led

Subjects Available

  November 29, 2019