How and why did human beings first start using numbers at the dawn of history? Would numbers exist if we Homo sapiens weren't around to discover them? Read more...
How and why did human beings first start using numbers at the dawn of history? Would numbers exist if we Homo sapiens weren't around to discover them? What's so special about weird numbers like pi and the Fibonacci sequence? What about rational, irrational, real, and imaginary numbers? Why do we need them?
Two veteran math educators explain it all in ways even the most math phobic will find appealing and understandable.
You'll never look at those squiggles on your calculator the same again.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-06-15
- Reviewer: Staff
Two veteran math educators team up to produce a lighthearted, informal look at "the thing behind the symbol"—the history and weirdness of numbers. Posamentier (Mathematical Curiosities) and Thaller begin with a look into the origins of counting and number properties before examining numbers across history. Their timeline begins approximately 5,000 years ago with the Babylonians (who were the first to use a place-value system), advances through the Egyptians with their base-10 system, and reaches the invention of zero in India around 1,500 years ago. In addition to the expected coverage of special numbers, which includes the Fibonacci series, primes, pi, and the Golden Ratio, Posamentier and Thaller offer routes down odder mathematical byways to explain "perfect" and "amicable" numbers as well as the peculiarities of magic squares. Something that sets the book apart from other popular math titles is its exploration of the psychology of numbers and the fact that the human brain seems to be hard-wired for using them, whether keeping score of a game or setting a poetic meter. Posamentier and Thaller's entertaining volume never sacrifices depth for accessibility, and proves that math is much more than abstract calculation. (Aug.)