The Joy of x

JoyofXThe Joy of x: A Guided Tour of Math, from One to Infinity
Steven Strogatz
Kindle Edition $8.61, Amazon Paperback $12.93
Available through Kindle Unlimited
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Reprint edition (October 2, 2012), 336 pages

Many of the science books I read I hear about through Science Friday, one of my favorite public radio programs. This is one of them.

The book is a tour of math for adults. Strogatz starts at the beginning with numbers, Sesame Street style, moves ahead to arithmetic, elementary school math, high school geometry and algebra, and on to more complex topics like statistics.

The author says that the book is “a guided tour through the elements of math, from preschool to grad school, for anyone out there who’d like to have a second chance at the subject— but this time from an adult perspective.” I was not great at math in high school and before, and I was fortunate enough to be able to avoid it in college. So while I found the book interesting, I didn’t really make the effort to follow the examples.

Still, Strogatz writes in a clear and witty style, and his wit is particularly enjoyable. An example:

quoteBut in private, math is occasionally insecure. It has doubts. It questions itself and isn’t always sure it’s right. Especially where infinity is concerned. Infinity can keep math up at night, worrying, fidgeting, feeling existential dread. For there have been times in the history of math when unleashing infinity wrought such mayhem, there were fears it might blow up the whole enterprise.

For the most part, then, the book was worth my time, and since I got it during my free trial month of Amazon Unlimited, it was definitely worth the price.



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