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Mathematics constants, variables and stuff

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Old 05-04-2012, 03:56 PM   #1798660  /  #1
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Default Pop math books

I'm teaching a college algebra class that's a terminal degree requirement for a lot of my students, and, in a (probably fruitless) effort to introduce some curiosity-inspiring stuff into the curriculum, I've decided to assign a book report of some pop math book.

Suggestions for the reading list?
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Old 05-04-2012, 05:52 PM   #1798777  /  #2
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Freakonomics?
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Old 05-04-2012, 07:19 PM   #1798856  /  #3
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I've never read Freakonomics! It seems like it might be the sort of thing I have in mind, though. I was also thinking about Euclid's Window and The Monty Hall Problem.
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Old 05-04-2012, 07:40 PM   #1798877  /  #4
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GEB

*ducks and runs*
Seriously possibly Lady or the Tiger? And Other Logic Puzzles?
http://www.amazon.com/Puzzles-Includ.../dp/0812921178

And I think that some people would like Archimedes-Revenge
http://www.amazon.com/Archimedes-Rev.../dp/0449217507
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Old 05-04-2012, 07:42 PM   #1798881  /  #5
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I thought of David Foster Wallace's "Everything and More", but if you assign that your students will probably revolt and kill you.
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Old 05-04-2012, 07:49 PM   #1798895  /  #6
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Quote:
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GEB

*ducks and runs*


I'm not so down on GEB that I wouldn't want my students to read it, but it's like 700 pages long! None of them are going to make it through that.

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Seriously possibly Lady or the Tiger? And Other Logic Puzzles?
http://www.amazon.com/Puzzles-Includ.../dp/0812921178

And I think that some people would like Archimedes-Revenge
http://www.amazon.com/Archimedes-Rev.../dp/0449217507
Smullyan! That has some potential, though his stuff is really hard sometimes.
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Old 05-04-2012, 07:50 PM   #1798898  /  #7
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I thought of David Foster Wallace's "Everything and More", but if you assign that your students will probably revolt and kill you.
How come? I've never read it. Actually, planning this assignment, I've realized I don't really read these kinds of books. I was hoping to get a list of 30 or 40 good books and let each of the students choose one.
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Old 05-04-2012, 08:05 PM   #1798912  /  #8
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What do you mean by "pop math"? If Polya's How to Solve It meets the criteria, you can try that. If not, something like Keith Devlin's The Language of Mathematics may serve to whet some students' appetite about maths, but it's not very proof intensive (although it does contain some proofs).
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Old 05-04-2012, 08:11 PM   #1798914  /  #9
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'Mathematics Minus Fear' is interesting but 'How long is a piece of string' is probably more attention getting because of the gambling element. I am math challenged though so maybe these are a bit too simplistic.
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Old 05-04-2012, 09:07 PM   #1798951  /  #10
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Hey what about Winnie Cooper's books?
I've never read them but didn't she write some math books more or less aimed at getting high school girls interested in math?

She has a low Erdos number.
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Old 05-05-2012, 12:23 PM   #1799556  /  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Quizalufagus View Post
I'm teaching a college algebra class that's a terminal degree requirement for a lot of my students, and, in a (probably fruitless) effort to introduce some curiosity-inspiring stuff into the curriculum, I've decided to assign a book report of some pop math book.

Suggestions for the reading list?
Here’s two that should be read by all math students, in my opinion:
Conquering Mathematics From Arithmetic to Calculus
By Lloyd Motz and Jefferson Hane Weaver

The second is a favorite of mine:
A Tour of the Calculus
By David Berlinski

Another really good math book (algebra level only) but probably hard to find:
Reed’s Mathematics For Engineers
By William Embleton, O.B.E.

It shouldn’t be any problem to get a list of thirty or more.
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Old 05-05-2012, 01:03 PM   #1799579  /  #12
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math is sooooooo boring.
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Old 05-05-2012, 01:18 PM   #1799581  /  #13
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Well we can't all work in fields that let you make it up as you go.
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Old 05-05-2012, 01:32 PM   #1799586  /  #14
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Quote:
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math is sooooooo boring.
Because it's not so loosey goosey as philosophy?
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Old 05-05-2012, 03:51 PM   #1799691  /  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Preno View Post
What do you mean by "pop math"? If Polya's How to Solve It meets the criteria, you can try that. If not, something like Keith Devlin's The Language of Mathematics may serve to whet some students' appetite about maths, but it's not very proof intensive (although it does contain some proofs).
Well, most of my students believe math is just boring number crunching, and a good share of them are also terrified by it. I was hoping to give them something to read that's accessible, non-threatening, engaging, and that would dispel a lot of their stereotypes about math. They also have no intellectual curiosity, so it's an uphill battle to get them to be interested in anything. I think Devlin's book might appeal to some of them, but I dunno about Polya. I remember How to Solve It as being directed at young mathematicians, but admittedly it's been many years since I read it.
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Old 05-05-2012, 03:59 PM   #1799696  /  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Heinz Hershold View Post
Here’s two that should be read by all math students, in my opinion:
Conquering Mathematics From Arithmetic to Calculus
By Lloyd Motz and Jefferson Hane Weaver

The second is a favorite of mine:
A Tour of the Calculus
By David Berlinski

Another really good math book (algebra level only) but probably hard to find:
Reed’s Mathematics For Engineers
By William Embleton, O.B.E.

It shouldn’t be any problem to get a list of thirty or more.


Even I thought Berlinski's book was boring! And mathematics for engineers? We're not talking about a group of young engineers, mathematicians, and scientists here. The law of cosines is the most advanced math that any of these people will ever see in school.
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Old 05-05-2012, 08:48 PM   #1799977  /  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Quizalufagus View Post
I'm teaching a college algebra class that's a terminal degree requirement for a lot of my students, and, in a (probably fruitless) effort to introduce some curiosity-inspiring stuff into the curriculum, I've decided to assign a book report of some pop math book.

Suggestions for the reading list?
Selected chapters of Penrose's The Road to Reality? This book is to a large extent a popular or semi-popular book about mathematics, though I don't think it's fun read for someone who doesn't already have a genuine interest.
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Old 05-06-2012, 07:03 AM   #1800213  /  #18
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Quote:
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Quizalufagus View Post
I'm teaching a college algebra class that's a terminal degree requirement for a lot of my students, and, in a (probably fruitless) effort to introduce some curiosity-inspiring stuff into the curriculum, I've decided to assign a book report of some pop math book.

Suggestions for the reading list?
Selected chapters of Penrose's The Road to Reality? This book is to a large extent a popular or semi-popular book about mathematics, though I don't think it's fun read for someone who doesn't already have a genuine interest.
You cannot be serious Linus! RtR scares the living shit out of most physics profs. Fabulous book as it undoubtedly is - I think, the only way you can read and comprehend it is, if you are in fact Penrose himself.

Emperor's New Mind on the other hand, I found more lay accessible, more compact and highly motivating. A bit out of date now but still a classic imo.
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Old 05-06-2012, 06:21 PM   #1800456  /  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Quizalufagus View Post
I'm teaching a college algebra class that's a terminal degree requirement for a lot of my students, and, in a (probably fruitless) effort to introduce some curiosity-inspiring stuff into the curriculum, I've decided to assign a book report of some pop math book.

Suggestions for the reading list?
Selected chapters of Penrose's The Road to Reality? This book is to a large extent a popular or semi-popular book about mathematics, though I don't think it's fun read for someone who doesn't already have a genuine interest.
You cannot be serious Linus! RtR scares the living shit out of most physics profs. Fabulous book as it undoubtedly is - I think, the only way you can read and comprehend it is, if you are in fact Penrose himself.

Emperor's New Mind on the other hand, I found more lay accessible, more compact and highly motivating. A bit out of date now but still a classic imo.
The Road to Reality is actually very readable. People with a strong background in math can read it on the beach. People with a weaker background, but genuine motivation, can probably get inspiration and learn something from it. Not sure it helps to inspire people who aren't already interested in math, though.
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Old 05-07-2012, 01:47 AM   #1800702  /  #20
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Fermat's Last Theorem by Simon Singh?
Or whatever title it was published under in the US.

eta: the more I think about this the more I think it's up your street. It goes into a little about the pythagoreans, the history of maths through some of the heroes and villains, it touches on calculus and the history of its discovery, the tale of Galois etc. It's all slightly romanticised but I know someone who's teaching senior maths who was inspired to get her degree from reading it.

Last edited by Requiescat in pace; 05-07-2012 at 01:53 AM.
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Old 05-07-2012, 01:44 PM   #1800876  /  #21
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Gleick's Chaos is buggery brilliant.
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Old 05-07-2012, 06:14 PM   #1801179  /  #22
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FLT has some great basic proofs, Euclid's proof of primes, proof of the irrationality of root 2, a neat and easy to grasp geometric proof of the Pythagoras theorem. I can't think of a better book to inspire none-mathematicians regarding the beauty and history of math. Most math books for the none-mathematician are full of analogies and intuitive stuff which try to convey mathematical ideas in easy to grasp ways, IOW they're pointless as 'math' books for the none-mathematician and more like false advertising.
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Old 05-08-2012, 06:28 AM   #1801808  /  #23
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There is a book called The Mathematical Universe, by Dunham I think, that some of my math interested, but not capable friends have enjoyed. The gimmick is 26 chapters, from A to Z, about different mathy things. Very broad, accessible, lots of neat proofs and personalities.
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Old 05-08-2012, 06:52 AM   #1801809  /  #24
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Flatland/Sphereland?
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Old 05-08-2012, 10:05 AM   #1801836  /  #25
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No.

BigD has the right idea.
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