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Concepts of Modern Mathematics [Paperback]

Ian Stewart
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 1 1995 Dover Books on Mathematics

Some years ago, "new math" took the country's classrooms by storm. Based on the abstract, general style of mathematical exposition favored by research mathematicians, its goal was to teach students not just to manipulate numbers and formulas, but to grasp the underlying mathematical concepts. The result, at least at first, was a great deal of confusion among teachers, students, and parents. Since then, the negative aspects of "new math" have been eliminated and its positive elements assimilated into classroom instruction.
In this charming volume, a noted English mathematician uses humor and anecdote to illuminate the concepts underlying "new math": groups, sets, subsets, topology, Boolean algebra, and more. According to Professor Stewart, an understanding of these concepts offers the best route to grasping the true nature of mathematics, in particular the power, beauty, and utility of pure mathematics. No advanced mathematical background is needed (a smattering of algebra, geometry, and trigonometry is helpful) to follow the author's lucid and thought-provoking discussions of such topics as functions, symmetry, axiomatics, counting, topology, hyperspace, linear algebra, real analysis, probability, computers, applications of modern mathematics, and much more.
By the time readers have finished this book, they'll have a much clearer grasp of how modern mathematicians look at figures, functions, and formulas and how a firm grasp of the ideas underlying "new math" leads toward a genuine comprehension of the nature of mathematics itself.

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Concepts of Modern Mathematics + How to Solve It: A New Aspect of Mathematical Method + How to Prove It: A Structured Approach
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
This charming book was written by a man who knows how to teach, and how to have fun. For example, as each successive topic is discussed, Mr. Stewart is careful to furnish the reader with an intuitive grasp of its main points. Only then, does he delve into the topic's details. However, what really makes this book readable is the author's wit, and sense of delight, as he illuminates--one-by-one--the abstract concepts of modern mathematics. Amazingly, this book can be read by almost anyone, and they will come away with an understanding of the why, and the wherefore, of modern math.
In theory at least, having a degree in pure math meant that I had insights that most engineers don't have. In reality, it meant I was more aware of what I didn't understand. When I got this book, I went straight to the topics I'd never gotten the point of: set theory, topology, and hyperspace. I was not disappointed, but it was not until I settled down and read the whole book that I really got the point. Modern mathematics (modern meaning the late 1800s on) provides a framework for all math. That is why it is--of necessity--more abstract, generalized, and rigorous.
Interestingly, the figures in this book are hand drawn. Perhaps its because this book has a way of transporting the reader to a university classroom - somewhere. It wouldn't have seemed right if the figures were anything but hand drawn.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars outstanding guide to higher math for the layman Oct. 17 2000
This book is very much in the same spirit as more recent books such as Keith Devlin's "Mathematics, the New Golden Age" (which I also recommend). It explains various subjects in pure mathematics in order to make them accessible and interesting to non-mathematicians. A great variety of subjects are covered, including abstract algebra, group theory, number theory, and especially topology, to which the author devotes several chapters. The links between different branches of mathematics (e.g. topology and group theory) are given special attention, and one of the central themes of the book is the fundamental unity of mathematics. I strongly recommend this book to anyone with a serious interest in mathematics. Plus, the price is definitely right!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely brilliant! Dec 25 1998
Deserves 10 stars. Here is an author who understands so many advanced concepts and who can write smoothly, clearly and convincingly, bearing the reader along with his keen and interesting mind. Convincingly demonstrates the interrelationships between different areas of modern mathematics. Great mathematics for the layman without being in the slightest bit condescending. I have had an amateur's interest in mathematics since high school but was never able to follow it up professionally. This book is the best I have read in the 30 years I have had this interest. A delight to read, educational and informative.
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