While at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in January, I attended a talk by Erica Winterer titled Attention Is the Beginning of Devotion: Noticing and Acculturative Routines in a Large Freshman Calculus Course. In this talk, Ms Winterer presented a number of interesting ideas for making students feel more comfortable and welcome in lower-division college mathematics classes.
While there were a number of good ideas, a fairly simple suggestion was to present students with their mathematical genealogy. The premise is that by showing the students their place in a long history of mathematical thinking, we show them that they are participants in our culture, history, and traditions. They are not outsiders in a foreign land, but natives learning the ways of their own people.
I find that I have really latched onto this idea. Over the last several weeks, when I have had a few moments to spare, I have been exploring my own mathematical genealogy via the Mathematics Genealogy Project website. The result is my own academic genealogy.