Mathematics Books for Non-Mathematicians

Most reviews of “popular” math books I’ve seen tend to be written by mathematicians. That’s understandable, considering they’ll know if the information is accurate; but it doesn’t get the perspective of what it’s like to be in the “target audience” of non-mathematicians.

So for something a little different, I link you to: Adam Cadre’s review of The Pleasures of Counting.

We suppose that we have n towns which we label 1, 2, …, n. Nooooooo! I don’t understand the problem yet! You have to give me specifics so I can understand, and then once we’re on the same page, then we can talk about the abstract case! No abstractions till I can picture it in my head, and I’ve never seen a county with n towns in it. Talk about, I dunno, eight towns instead. And for heaven’s sake, if we’re going to be talking about a flow of 3 trains or 4 trains per hour, do not label the towns 3 and 4 and so on! That’s confusing! Give the towns some fricking names. Amsterdam, Berlin, Copenhagen.

I’m reminded of Timothy Gowers and his principle of “examples first”.

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