Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Review: The Math Book

For class we each read a book of our choosing.  I chose the Math Book by Clifford Pickover because it looked like an interesting quick read.  The front states "250 Milestones in the History of Mathematics" and that's exactly what it is.  It's written in chronological order all the way from circa 150 Million BCE to 2007, two years before it was published.  Every page is a different milestone with an accompanying picture.  

Not only does it discuss the famous mathematicians that we've all heard of like Pythagoras, Euler, and Fibonacci, but it also discusses people, discoveries, and inventions that I've never talked about in math class.  My favorite pages were ones that talked about different puzzles and games like Rope around the Earth Puzzle (1702), and the board game Go (548 BCE) .  So although not every page is a gigantic breakthrough that everyone has heard about, they're all important in some way, even just for entertainment.  Most of the pages discuss some history which I found really interesting because not often do we put these discoveries in context of the times.   One that I found interesting that ties in the puzzles and also history was the entry on Hex from 1942.  It discussed the game of hex and how to play and then also tells about how it was manufactured by Parker Brothers.  It's inventor, Piet Hein had to go into hiding in 1940 because of WWII.  It really makes you think about what could have been discovered and invented by some people if their society had allowed them to keep doing math.

Overall I really enjoyed the book.  It really shows how vast math is and showed how interesting it could be.  It's written at a level that is easy to read and understand.  I believe the general public would enjoy this book, but it might help if that have a slight interest in math to start with.  No deep knowledge of math is needed to read and understand this book.  For the first half of the book I read straight through in chronological order, but the second half I skipped around a bit, so if the reader decides to read in chronological order or not, either way is interesting.  My only complaint is that sometimes I wish the pages were a little more in depth instead of just introducing the topic and then moving on to the next one.  Perhaps if I had had more time to get through this book I could have looked up the ones I was really interested in online instead of immediately moving to the next one.  I definitely liked this book though and would recommend it to anyone with the slightest inclination towards math and its history.  It was an easy read and entertaining.

1 comment:

  1. Book review, check. I agree with your one complaint, but the book's just too beautiful for me to be too loud about it. Maybe a companion website for more depth?