Ideas for lessons/lectures, history of

For school next term I have to build out a set of three 1 hour lectures on something math related on an enriched topic. One of the choices is “history of” and I’m drawn to that. I’m considering doing something on the history of some thread of actsci. Maybe makeham/gompertz? Maybe the overall progression of life contingengencies?

What are your ideas of topics I could do?
Clarification: it’s needs to be math related more than general actuarial.

The history of Tontines.

In the FAP modules we had to read some stuff about some Canadian insurance company that failed spectacularly. Those stories always intrigue me.

Confederation Life, as I recall.

Equity Funding Billion Dollar Bubble (1978) - James Woods - YouTube

Or (less sensational): U.S. Mortality Trends 2020-2022 part 3: Major Categories of Death - YouTube

I 2nd this. There’s some interesting work being done to revitalize tontines around the world as a way to reevaluate how we deal with longevity risk in an individual account world. Looking at their history could be pretty interesting as an intro to where they are going.

I just did a quick read, since I knew almost nothing about tontines. Interesting, despite the dark cloud over them. THis caught my eye:

Today, a growing number of financial advisors, academics, and Fintech firms think that it might be time to take a second look at these financial arrangements. One such academic is Moshe Milevsky, an associate professor of finance at York University’s Schulich School of Business in Toronto, who would like to see tontines make a comeback. Milevsky thinks that tontines are attractive because they provide the regular income of an annuity—even more income for living members—and because of tontines’ structure and relatively low costs, they produce higher yields than annuities.

Anything with that guy’s name attached has some serious cred IMO. He’s so smart he’s able to make complicated ideas understandable.

Obligatory Simpsons


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Ramanujan for all the rest of us auto didacts

Not quite directly actualrially related . … but the history of the quadratic formula (and the related closed form solutions to polynomials of degree <= 5) and the rise of the complex number.

In the late middle ages, nobility would patronize “math nerds” who would then challenge other “math nerds” to nerd-duals. This amounted to each sending the other a list of polynomial equations to solve. The winner is the one who could solve more of the their opponents equations while still being able to solve (or have the solutions) for their own. Interesting note: only real-valued solutions were valid; but these closed form solutions often required using complex numbers (which often “cancel out” for the real-valued solutions).

What’s the tie-in to the modern-day world? Insurance companies “patronize” math nerds (actuaries) to “solve” business problems with math. The winner often being those who can provide a rating solution that keeps their sponsor (employer) profitable and increase marketshare.

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How about the history of Fermat’s last theorem? You know, the one with a^n + b^n = c^n has no solution for n>2 and a, b, c are real numbers? Apparently Fermat scrawled “i have a proof for this” hundreds of years ago in the margin of a notebook, but nobody actually solved it until like the 1990s when some hermit literally invented new branches of mathematics to make the proof, and had to hold off on publishing those new branches so that others didn’t see them, get wind of his approach, and scoop his proof of Fermat.

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Fermat’s theorem is in reference to a, b, and c being positive integers.

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There’s a great book by Simon Singh on Fermat’s Last Theorem.

He’s also done a superb history of The Big Bang as well as an excellent one on Cryptography. (I haven’t read his Mathematics and The Simpsons.)

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I would say that is a large nit to pick. Like an ostrich egg.

That JFG thread on how to understand women.

Also, WTF up with this spelling?

How about the progression in history of how actuaries and mathematicians calculated stuff. Like Pi, orbits of planets, sines and cosines, predicting when and where solar eclipses will occur, etc.


I think I have a problem. I finished my last coursework for the term this afternoon. Now I’m sitting here wondering what I’m going to do tonite.
Eh maybe I’ll work. I’m sure as heck not going to watch TV.

Next term’s projects? Like the one in the OP??

Yeah. Lol spent an hour reading about Fermat’s conjecture today.


What age are the students? Is it more “history” or more “math” class?

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If more “history” I think a topic on the history of the Pythagorean theorem and its applications to agriculture would be interesting. If it’s more math than something like Cantor and Set theory would be good. A nice mixture of both could be Newton and Leibniz and the development of Calculus.

I have (had?) a two-volume set called “Great Moments in Mathematics.” Always got a chuckle from my wife.