This is a book in which just about everyone should find something of interest, mainly because the author's topics are so wide-ranging. In the first chapters, he discusses how the brain works when solving mathematical problems. He then moves on to how primitive societies started counting and how mathematical concepts evolved. In subsequent chapters, the reader is treated to discussions on a variety of topics including: geometry, origami, number games (e.g., Sudoku), number theory, logarithms, devices used for calculating (abacus, slide rule, etc.), graphing, infinities, the golden mean, pi, probability (especially as applied to gambling), and statistics. In each case, the reader is introduced to some history, various related anecdotes as well as key people (some of whom the author has interviewed) who are currently involved in some of these topics. The author notes that the chapters can be read in any order, but suggests that the usual progression may be best.
Naturally, in a book that is so sweeping in its topics, a given reader may enjoy some chapters more than others; that certainly was my case. However, throughout, the writing style is lively, friendly, accessible, authoritative and quite engaging (depending, of course, on the reader's topics of preference).
I do believe that this book has something for everyone. Those who are math phobic may find clues as to why they are that way, i.e., how their brains may work when they are confronted with a math problem; maths buffs may find fascinating historical information as well current developments in some fields of mathematics that are less known to them. Gamblers may find information that could improve their odds at winning at certain games, or they could learn why they may lose more than they win. Those simply interested in math for its own sake will find plenty here to explore and enjoy.
on August 1, 2011
This book is a marvelous introduction to the science of numbers. Compared to other books about numbers, this one has a clear structure, gives enough details to back his facts, and is easy to understand. In each chapter he gradually introduces the more bizarre aspects of math and numbers: logic and magic squares, tips for ultra-fast multiplications, the golden number and pi, geometry, series, irrational numbers, infinity... All packaged so that you discover and understand why they're so exciting. This is what is missing from all the math courses I've ever taken.
Too bad that some passages are missing from the US version; but if you really want to, you can read excerpts from them on the author's website.
Overall, a very interesting book for those who want to see the fun side of math.