Wild About Math! Making Math fun and accessible

31May/111

Upcoming popular Math books from Princeton University Press

Princeton University Press recently sent me a list of their upcoming popular Math books. I'm looking forward to reviewing each of them when they're published. I've given the publisher some attention in this blog as I enjoy their books.

In Pursuit of the Traveling Salesman: Mathematics at the Limits of Computation by William J. Cook (January 2012)

Cook tells the story of one of the most famous math problems in the world. He starts in the 1800s when Irish mathematician W. R. Hamilton first defined the problem and brings the story to current, high-tech attempts to solve it.

On the Princeton University Press site and on Facebook


Magical Mathematics: The Mathematical Ideas that Animate Great Magic Tricks by Persi Diaconis & Ron Graham (November 2011)

Diaconis and Graham merge two passions – card tricks and math. In this book you will learn step-by-step how to amaze your friends with card tricks! Then you will learn the math that guarantees the startling results.

On the Princeton University Press site and on Facebook


Filed under: Books Continue reading
13Sep/101

Princeton University Press giving away a copy of “Calculus Lifesaver”

I just received this email from my publicity contact at Princeton University Press and thought it worth passing on.

This week, Princeton University Press is giving away a copy of Adrian Banner’s Calculus Lifesaver to one of our facebook fans or twitter followers. I thought you might want to share news of this with your readers, friends, colleagues, and/or students. The Calculus Lifesaver (and the wonderful videos of Banner’s lectures, links below) has helped thousands of college students ace calculus. The best way I’ve heard this book described is that it is not a book about “how to do calculus,” rather it is a book about “how to do calculus well.”

Here’s the giveaway announcement: This week's book giveaway is for all the back-to-school students who have calculus this term or for those of you who can't get enough of calculus: "The Calculus Lifesaver: All the Tools You Need to Excel at Calculus" by Adrian Banner. All of our Facebook followers are automatically entered to win.

I hope you will help me spread the word about this great book giveaway and if you are not already a fan of ours on facebook, please visit our page and click Like. We have a weekly book giveaway – they aren’t all math books, but given our history of publishing good math books, it’s bound to crop up from time to time.

Calculus Lifesaver web site: Here
MAA Reviews: Here
Facebook page: Here

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7Jun/140

David Reimer – Inspired by Math #35

I love novel ways of looking at arithmetic. I'm fascinated with how computers compute in binary, with tricks for simplifying calculations and with how Vedic mathematicians handle difficult arithmetic efficiently. So, when Princeton University Press sent me a review copy of their new book "Count Like An Egyptian," I immediately fell in love with it. I was delighted to learn even more techniques and the ideas behind them to deepen my appreciation of the beauty of what most consider to be mundane arithmetic.

"Count Like an Egyptian" is a delightful book, full of color illustrations, fun stories, lots of hands-on exercises, and an appreciation for the power of simple but deep ideas.

David Reimer was a pleasure to interview. He is a brilliant mathematician who hasn't lost sight of the power and beauty of mathematics. He taught me and modeled that, despite the stereotype, the more advanced mathematicians are the ones who are more likely to communicate ideas well.

We discussed these questions plus some nice tangents!

1. How did you get interested enough in Egyptian computation to write a book about it? What is the book about and who is the audience?

2. You're a math professor. What courses do you teach and at what level?

3. You researched the Rhind Papyrus to figure out how Egyptians did computations. Where did you get a hold of the Papyrus? How much time did you spend unraveling its secrets?

4. I'm fascinated with the idea that children can learn to do multiplication and division by just learning to double and add numbers. How did we develop such a cumbersome system of multiplication that requires memorizing tables?

5. I find it interesting that computers doing multiplication (and all other arithmetic) in binary equates to Egyptians doubling and adding numbers. Can you connect the dots for our listeners? (Nice video here, btw: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDLLPnfpMfU)

6. Tell us about how Egyptians worked with fractions and why it was so novel.

7. One reviewer said this: "Of course our system is more apt for us (or for machines) to do calculations just following recipes, which need no insight or wit, but what we lose is that the Egyptian system keeps the practitioner sharp, forcing him or her to think about the problem and the result of the calculations." What do you think of the statement?

8. In addition to exploring Egyptian computation you also write about other mathematical systems. Tell us about those.

9. Is there a next book or big project?

10. The question I ask everyone: What advice would you give to a parent whose child was struggling with math in school?

About David Reimer

David ReimerIn high school I was a mediocre student at best. But I did far better on my SATs than was expected. I passed a number of AP exams never having taken any AP courses but learning from published study guides. This got me into Colgate. I started as a computer science major but quickly found that I knew more than my professors, at least in practical computing. I toyed with becoming a physics major, winning the school’s award for the best freshman physics student. I eventually settled on math as everyone in my family did.

Over the summers I worked at Creative Computing, which was then the largest computer magazine in the world and for Prudential Insurance, where I wrote the database for the central office’s purchasing department. I passed two actuarial exams and was offered a job but decided to take a try as a freelance programmer. On one project, which we spent six months on, the company cancelled and refused to pay us. Desperately needing money I taught night school calculus as an adjunct. I immediately knew that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

I got into the graduate math program at Rutgers. While most grad students taught recitations and graded papers, the department noticed my teaching skill and gave me my own higher level classes even giving me a 300-level course. I finished up my Phd. thesis while making some money as a full instructor first at Rutgers and then at Middlesex Community College. While there I was told that my proof of the Vandenberg-Kesten conjecture won the Polya Prize in Discrete Mathematics which is given every four years to what is considered to be the best work in discrete math during that period. The conjecture is a generalization of a probabilistic proposition often used in percolation, the theory of how things like epidemics and fires spread. Being overly simplistic it basically says that given two events that can happen anywhere but not in the same place, the probability of both happening is less than what would be expected if they were independent events. Based on this theorem I got what most would call a post doc at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton (where Einstein worked) and then a job at the College of New Jersey where I am today.

Contact info: http://mathstat.pages.tcnj.edu/faculty-profiles/faculty/dave-reimer/

About "Count Like an Egyptian"

(From the Princeton University Press book page)
k10197The mathematics of ancient Egypt was fundamentally different from our math today. Contrary to what people might think, it wasn't a primitive forerunner of modern mathematics. In fact, it can't be understood using our current computational methods. Count Like an Egyptian provides a fun, hands-on introduction to the intuitive and often-surprising art of ancient Egyptian math. David Reimer guides you step-by-step through addition, subtraction, multiplication, and more. He even shows you how fractions and decimals may have been calculated--they technically didn't exist in the land of the pharaohs. You'll be counting like an Egyptian in no time, and along the way you'll learn firsthand how mathematics is an expression of the culture that uses it, and why there's more to math than rote memorization and bewildering abstraction.

Reimer takes you on a lively and entertaining tour of the ancient Egyptian world, providing rich historical details and amusing anecdotes as he presents a host of mathematical problems drawn from different eras of the Egyptian past. Each of these problems is like a tantalizing puzzle, often with a beautiful and elegant solution. As you solve them, you'll be immersed in many facets of Egyptian life, from hieroglyphs and pyramid building to agriculture, religion, and even bread baking and beer brewing.

Fully illustrated in color throughout, Count Like an Egyptian also teaches you some Babylonian computation--the precursor to our modern system--and compares ancient Egyptian mathematics to today's math, letting you decide for yourself which is better.

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6Apr/141

Tim Chartier – Inspired by Math #34

My favorite kind of Math challenges are those that children can understand and professional mathematicians can't solve easily (or at all.) Math Bytes: Google Bombs, Chocolate-Covered Pi, and Other Cool Bits in Computing is a brand new book from Princeton University Press that has a great collection of fun problems that kids (middle school and above) and their parents can work on together. Author Tim Chartier does a fantastic job of weaving some wonderful stories into his sharing of a number of challenges that are either original or new spins on old problems. And, many (all?) of the puzzles in the book are classroom tested.

Tim is a mathematician and a professional mime. He's got a neat relationship with the Mathematical Association of America, and with the Museum of Mathematics in New York City. He's got a DVD course coming out, and a second book. Tim is quite the math celebrity and a really great guy. I think you'll all enjoy the many topics we manage to touch on in just over an hour. Oh, and if you didn't win a billion dollars in Warren Buffett's March Madness challenge then you might want to listen to the podcast and read the book. 🙂

About Tim Chartier

[From http://sites.davidson.edu/mathmovement/about]

chartier Tim Chartier is an Associate Professor in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at Davidson College. In 2014, he was named the inaugural Mathematical Association of America’s Math Ambassador. He is a recipient of a national teaching award from the Mathematical Association of America. Published by Princeton University Press, Tim authored Math Bytes: Google Bombs, Chocolate-Covered Pi, and Other Cool Bits in Computing and coauthored Numerical Methods: Design, Analysis, and Computer Implementation of Algorithms with Anne Greenbaum. As a researcher, Tim has worked with both Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos National Laboratories on the development and analysis of computational methods targeted to increase efficiency and robustness of numerical simulation on the lab’s supercomputers, which are among the fastest in the world. Tim’s research with and beyond the labs was recognized with an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship. (More)

About Math Bytes

[From The Princeton University Press Web-site]
MathBytes This book provides a fun, hands-on approach to learning how mathematics and computing relate to the world around us and help us to better understand it. How can reposting on Twitter kill a movie's opening weekend? How can you use mathematics to find your celebrity look-alike? What is Homer Simpson's method for disproving Fermat's Last Theorem? Each topic in this refreshingly inviting book illustrates a famous mathematical algorithm or result--such as Google's PageRank and the traveling salesman problem--and the applications grow more challenging as you progress through the chapters. But don't worry, helpful solutions are provided each step of the way.

Math Bytes shows you how to do calculus using a bag of chocolate chips, and how to prove the Euler characteristic simply by doodling. Generously illustrated in color throughout, this lively and entertaining book also explains how to create fractal landscapes with a roll of the dice, pick a competitive bracket for March Madness, decipher the math that makes it possible to resize a computer font or launch an Angry Bird--and much, much more. All of the applications are presented in an accessible and engaging way, enabling beginners and advanced readers alike to learn and explore at their own pace--a bit and a byte at a time.

Other Links

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13Feb/141

Chuck Adler – Inspired by Math #33

I've admitted before that Physics and I have never gotten along. But, science fiction is something I enjoy. So, when Princeton University Press sent me a copy of Physics Professor Chuck Adler's new book "Wizards, Aliens, and Starships," I was intrigued enough that I wanted to interview the author. This interview rambled, but in a good way. Chuck is a great guest, he's passionate about physics and math as well as fantasy and science fiction. We flowed through a number of subjects and had a grand time.

Enjoy!

About Chuck Adler

CA_Headshot
Chuck Adler grew up in the DC suburbs, and went to a very good public high school. He attended Brown University, where he got a bachelor of science in Physics, and then stayed there for graduate school, eventually getting a Ph. D. in laser physics. Dr. Adler has been a faculty member at St. Mary's College since 1997; his research area is atomic physics and light scattering, particularly atmospheric optics (rainbows, ice crystal halo displays and the like). He was the chair of the 10th international "Light and Color in the Open Air" conference in 2010. In addition to science fiction, he enjoys mysteries and historical novels, plus almost any technical book on almost any subject, particularly cookbooks, of which he owns several hundred. He enjoys cooking a great deal, particularly baking bread.

About "Wizards, Aliens, and Starships"

From teleportation and space elevators to alien contact and interstellar travel, science fiction and fantasy writers have come up with some brilliant and innovative ideas. Yet how plausible are these ideas--for instance, could Mr. Weasley's flying car in the Harry Potter books really exist? Which concepts might actually happen, and which ones wouldn't work at all? Wizards, Aliens, and Starships delves into the most extraordinary details in science fiction and fantasy--such as time warps, shape changing, rocket launches, and illumination by floating candle--and shows readers the physics and math behind the phenomena. More...

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22Nov/132

Martin Gardner undiluted

Princeton University Press recently published "Undiluted Hocus-Pocus: The Autobiography of Martin Gardner." I've not reviewed the book since these days I pretty much only interview authors and living authors at that. So, no review from me, but I highly recommend Shecky's review and Shecky's first impressions at Math Tango.

What inspired to blog this afternoon was an email I received from Andrew S. DeSio, Director of Publicity for Princeton University Press. Andrew has asked me to help spread the word that Martin Gardner really did write his own autobiography. Here's an excerpt from Andrew's message.

"Since the book has released some critics of the bio have claimed the book was posthumously pieced together by friends of the famed math writer and that the new biography is a collaboration between the Press and friends of Gardner. This is simply not true. Prior to his death, Martin Gardner wrote a complete manuscript of his autobiography. While some of his dearest friends helped us fine tune the project, this book is absolutely his own. Our math editor Vickie Kearn and I would like the opportunity to refute this claim and so we are hoping your blog might be the perfect forum for us to post a “Letter” with our official statement on the book."

I have to say that in all of my numerous dealings with Princeton University Press I have never ever sensed any action that might be out of integrity. In particular, I've had a few email exchanges with their math editor Vickie Kearn and I even interviewed her for one of my podcasts and, if Vickie says that Martin Gardner wrote his autobiography himself, I believe her.

Here is Vickie's letter. And, here is an excerpt from Martin Gardner's original manuscript, courtesy of Princeton University Press.


Who Wrote Martin Gardner’s Autobiography?

By Vickie Kearn, Mathematics Editor, Princeton University Press

Once we began to promote Undiluted Hocus Pocus: The autobiography of Martin Gardner, a few people asked me “Who wrote the book?” I initially thought they were confusing a biography with an autobiography but now that I have read a few reviews on amazon, I understand why they asked the question. Some believe that Gardner’s friends put together bits and pieces of things that Martin Gardner wrote. So to clarify things, here is the back story about the publication of this book.

I never met Martin Gardner. I never talked with him on the phone. But, we did write letters to one another for almost 25 years. No one writes letters anymore so when I receive one, I always get excited—especially when it is from someone like Martin Gardner. His letters were always full of fun information and sometimes they concerned book projects we were working on. The letters were always written on a typewriter and corrected by hand in ink, often green. He wrote in small script and it sometimes took a while to sort out the handwriting but the letters were always a treasure trove and worth the effort to decipher.

When Martin’s son, Jim Gardner, contacted me and asked if Princeton University Press would be interested in publishing Martin’s autobiography, I was thrilled. I could not think of a book I would more like to publish. As with many people, Martin Gardner had a huge amount to do with my becoming a math major so being able to do something for him was a fantastic opportunity.

When Jim sent the manuscript I started laughing because it looked like an extremely long letter. It was written with the same typewriter and edited in the same way as his letters. I have attached a page from the manuscript in case you never corresponded with Martin Gardner.

Jim and I talked for a long time about Martin’s wishes for the manuscript and we decided that we would change as little as possible in the manuscript. We could not ask the author his opinion about any changes so we kept asking ourselves would Martin like any changes we planned before we made them. We did correct typos and filled in all the ??? he had sprinkled throughout the manuscript. We confirmed some dates and the order in which events took place.

There are a few places in the manuscript where there is some repetition. Martin had many interests and we knew some people would go only to the chapters that interested them. So, in cases where we thought that might happen, we allowed the repeated material to stand.

Some people ask why it took so long to publish the book after Martin’s death. He finished the manuscript a few months before he died and passed it to his son to decide what to do with it. With any large estate, there are lots of decisions to make and time passes quickly. People who knew Martin well have found some wonderful stories in the book that they never heard before. Other people wish there was more in the book about other things and wonder why he included what he did. We will never know the answer to that question but I do know the answer to:
Who wrote Martin Gardner’s autobiography? He did!

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12Apr/130

Lance Fortnow: Inspired by Math #28

P vs. NP is a problem at the forefront of computer science. Until now there hasn't been a book written for a general audience that introduces the problem and its importance. Lance Fortnow has authored such a book. Lance I discuss the problem, the book, why he wrote it, and what it takes to write such a book in a way that doesn't scare most of us away. And, we take a few detours into talks about computer science and programming early microcomputers.

Enjoy!

About Lance Fortnow

From the author's web-site:

Lance Fortnow is professor and chair of the School of Computer Science of the College of Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology. His research focuses on computational complexity and its applications to economic theory. He also holds an adjoint professorship at the Toyota Technological Institute at Chicago.

Fortnow received his Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics at MIT in 1989 under the supervision of Michael Sipser. Before he joined Georgia Tech in 2012, Fortnow was a professor at Northwestern University, the University of Chicago, a senior research scientist at the NEC Research Institute and a one-year visitor at CWI and the University of Amsterdam.

Fortnow's research spans computational complexity and its applications, most recently to micro-economic theory. His work on interactive proof systems and time space lower bounds for satsifability have led to his election as a 2007 ACM Fellow. In addition he was an NSF Presidential Faculty Fellow from 1992-1998 and a Fulbright Scholar to the Netherlands in 1996-97.

Among his many activities, Fortnow served as the founding editor-in-chief of the ACM Transaction on Computation Theory, served as chair of ACM SIGACT and currently sits on the Computing Research Association board of directors and the council of the Computing Community Consortium. He served as chair of the IEEE Conference on Computational Complexity from 2000-2006. Fortnow originated and co-authors the Computational Complexity weblog since 2002, the first major theoretical computer science blog. He has thousands of followers on Twitter.

Fortnow's survey The Status of the P versus NP Problem is CACM's most downloaded article. Fortnow has written a popular science book The Golden Ticket: P, NP and the Search for the Impossible loosely based on that article.

About "The Golden Ticket"

From the Princeton University Press web-site:

The P-NP problem is the most important open problem in computer science, if not all of mathematics. Simply stated, it asks whether every problem whose solution can be quickly checked by computer can also be quickly solved by computer. The Golden Ticket provides a nontechnical introduction to P-NP, its rich history, and its algorithmic implications for everything we do with computers and beyond. In this informative and entertaining book, Lance Fortnow traces how the problem arose during the Cold War on both sides of the Iron Curtain, and gives examples of the problem from a variety of disciplines, including economics, physics, and biology. He explores problems that capture the full difficulty of the P-NP dilemma, from discovering the shortest route through all the rides at Disney World to finding large groups of friends on Facebook. But difficulty also has its advantages. Hard problems allow us to safely conduct electronic commerce and maintain privacy in our online lives.

The Golden Ticket explores what we truly can and cannot achieve computationally, describing the benefits and unexpected challenges of this compelling problem.

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8Feb/131

Dave Richeson – Inspired by Math #20

Professor Dave Richeson is one of the most exuberant math people I've gotten to know but I didn't know how exuberant he was until I interviewed him. He's also involved in a bunch of neat projects. It was one of these projects, documented in Dave Richeson's blog article, How I teach topology: an inquiry-based learning approach, that caught my attention since I have a real passion for collaborative learning.

About Dave Richeson

Dave Richeson is an Associate Professor of Mathematics at Dickinson College. He graduated from Hamilton College in 1993 with a degree in mathematics and received a Ph.D. in mathematics from Northwestern University in 1998. He came to Dickinson College after a postdoctoral position at Michigan State University. He is passionate about many areas of mathematics, but his research focuses on dynamical systems, topology, the history of mathematics, and mathematics pedagogy. He is the author of Euler's Gem: The Polyhedron Formula and the Birth of Topology, which was published by Princeton University Press. Euler's Gem received the 2010 Euler Book Prize from the Mathematical Association of America and it was selected by Choice Magazine as an "Outstanding Academic Title" for 2009. He is currently writing a book on the four problems of antiquity. He is editor-elect for Math Horizons, a publication of the Mathematical Association of America. He enjoys sharing his enthusiasm of mathematics with others on his blog (Division by Zero, http://divisbyzero.com) and on Twitter (@divbyzero).

About "Euler's Gem"

From the Princeton University Press web-site:

Leonhard Euler's polyhedron formula describes the structure of many objects--from soccer balls and gemstones to Buckminster Fuller's buildings and giant all-carbon molecules. Yet Euler's formula is so simple it can be explained to a child. Euler's Gem tells the illuminating story of this indispensable mathematical idea.

From ancient Greek geometry to today's cutting-edge research, Euler's Gem celebrates the discovery of Euler's beloved polyhedron formula and its far-reaching impact on topology, the study of shapes. In 1750, Euler observed that any polyhedron composed of V vertices, E edges, and F faces satisfies the equation V-E+F=2. David Richeson tells how the Greeks missed the formula entirely; how Descartes almost discovered it but fell short; how nineteenth-century mathematicians widened the formula's scope in ways that Euler never envisioned by adapting it for use with doughnut shapes, smooth surfaces, and higher dimensional shapes; and how twentieth-century mathematicians discovered that every shape has its own Euler's formula. Using wonderful examples and numerous illustrations, Richeson presents the formula's many elegant and unexpected applications, such as showing why there is always some windless spot on earth, how to measure the acreage of a tree farm by counting trees, and how many crayons are needed to color any map.

Filled with a who's who of brilliant mathematicians who questioned, refined, and contributed to a remarkable theorem's development, Euler's Gem will fascinate every mathematics enthusiast.

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27Jan/131

Glen Van Brummelen – Inspired by Math #18

Today I got to interview another great author of a Princeton University Press title. "Heavenly Mathematics: The Forgotten Art of Spherical Trigonometry" is a delightful exploration of the techniques that ancient and medieval people from different cultures used to navigate and map the stars and the seas along with modern methods. There's a strong focus on the historical setting for these explorations. This setting brings the mathematics to life. I was very impressed to learn how very smart ancient astronomers and mathematicians were. Our twentyfirst century perception that we are smarter than our predecessors is simply not true. I was also delighted to learn an elegant variation of the familiar Pythagorean Theorem when applied to a sphere.

I thoroughly enjoyed getting exposed to this very elegant branch of mathematics and hope you too will catch some of Professor Van Brummelen's enthusiasm.

Chapter 1 of the book is available as a free PDF download.

About Glen Van Brummelen

From the Quest University Website:

Glen Van Brummelen, mathematics tutor, is a historian of mathematics, especially trigonometry and astronomy in ancient Greece and medieval Islam. He is past president of the Canadian Society for History and Philosophy of Mathematics, and senior fellow at the Dibner Institute for History of Science at MIT. In addition to authoring 30 scholarly and 10 encyclopedia articles, he is co-editor of "Mathematics and the Historian's Craft" (Springer) and recently published the first history of trigonometry in over a century with Princeton University Press called "The Mathematics of the Heavens and the Earth: The Early History of Trigonometry".

Glen has taught mathematics at small liberal arts colleges his entire career. He has taught over 30 different courses, including most traditional topics in math but also mathematics and music, mathematics and democracy, mathematics and computer graphics, spherical trigonometry (using a 19th-century textbook), and how to be an ancient astronomer. Several of his students have published their undergraduate research with him in recent years. In the summer he teaches the history of math regularly at MathPath, a math camp for bright 7th- and 8th-graders.

As if this wasn't enough, he keeps busy with his three very active kids of his own: Ariel (13), Matthew (9) and Andrew (5), all of whom will be mathematicians some day, and wife Heide (age unspecified). He is an avid soccer player, and played goal on the college team at his two previous colleges. He is undefeated at chess in the past 20 years, with a record of 2-0. Glen notes that "the key is to choose one's opponents carefully".

About "Heavenly Mathematics"

From the Princeton University Press Website:

Spherical trigonometry was at the heart of astronomy and ocean-going navigation for two millennia. The discipline was a mainstay of mathematics education for centuries, and it was a standard subject in high schools until the 1950s. Today, however, it is rarely taught. Heavenly Mathematics traces the rich history of this forgotten art, revealing how the cultures of classical Greece, medieval Islam, and the modern West used spherical trigonometry to chart the heavens and the Earth. Glen Van Brummelen explores this exquisite branch of mathematics and its role in ancient astronomy, geography, and cartography; Islamic religious rituals; celestial navigation; polyhedra; stereographic projection; and more. He conveys the sheer beauty of spherical trigonometry, providing readers with a new appreciation for its elegant proofs and often surprising conclusions.

Heavenly Mathematics is illustrated throughout with stunning historical images and informative drawings and diagrams that have been used to teach the subject in the past. This unique compendium also features easy-to-use appendixes as well as exercises at the end of each chapter that originally appeared in textbooks from the eighteenth to the early twentieth centuries.

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14Jan/131

Steven Strogatz – Inspired by Math #16

Shecky over at the Math Frolic Blog has been a great supporter of this podcast series and recently made this observation:

I've been pleasantly surprised by the degree to which 'math people,' including such prominent and busy ones as [Ian] Stewart, Keith Devlin, Steven Strogatz and others, are willing to share themselves with the learning community, through such online outlets. It is really wonderful, and I think a reflection of the desire on the part of mathematicians to transform their subject from one that is too-often feared to one for eager engagement.

Having had the opportunity to have a very pleasant and very informal conversation with Dr. Steven Strogatz this afternoon really brought home Shecky's point. Dr. Strogatz and others are making a difference by giving generously of their time to bloggers who aren't likely to reach as many people as their books will reach.

At the bottom of this post I feature two of Dr. Strogatz' books, "The Joy of x," published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and the lesser known but equally important book, "The Calculus of Friendship," published by the Princeton University Press. We discuss both in the podcast.

About Steven Strogatz

From Dr. Strogatz' web-site:
Steven Strogatz is the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor of Applied Mathematics at Cornell University. He holds a joint appointment in the College of Arts and Sciences (Mathematics) and the College of Engineering (Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering).

After graduating summa cum laude in mathematics from Princeton in 1980, Strogatz studied at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was a Marshall Scholar. He did his doctoral work in applied mathematics at Harvard, followed by a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard and Boston University. From 1989 to 1994, Strogatz taught in the Department of Mathematics at MIT. He joined the Cornell faculty in 1994.

He has received numerous awards for his research, teaching, and public service, including: a Presidential Young Investigator Award from the National Science Foundation (1990); MIT's highest teaching prize, the E. M. Baker Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching (1991); the J.P. and Mary Barger '50 Teaching Award (1997), the Robert '55 and Vanne '57 Cowie Teaching Award (2001), the Tau Beta Pi Teaching Award (2006), and the Swanson Teaching Award (2009), all from Cornell's College of Engineering; and the Communications Award from the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics (2007), a lifetime achievement award for the communication of mathematics to the general public. In 2009 he was elected a Fellow of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics for his “investigations of small-world networks and coupled oscillators and for outstanding science communication.” In 2012 he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Strogatz is passionate about public outreach and loves sharing the beauty of math and science with a wide audience. He has spoken at TED and is a frequent guest on RadioLab. In the spring of 2010 he wrote a weekly blog about mathematics for the New York Times; the Harvard Business Review described these columns as "must reads for entrepreneurs and executives" and "a model for how mathematics needs to be popularized." His second New York Times series, Me, Myself and Math, appeared in the fall of 2012. Strogatz has also filmed a series of 24 lectures on Chaos for the Teaching Company’s Great Courses series. He is the author of Nonlinear Dynamics and Chaos (1994), Sync (2003), and The Calculus of Friendship (2009). His most recent book, The Joy of x, was published in October 2012.

About "The Joy of x"

From Amazon.com:
A world-class mathematician and regular contributor to the New York Times hosts a delightful tour of the greatest ideas of math, revealing how it connects to literature, philosophy, law, medicine, art, business, even pop culture in ways we never imagined

Did O.J. do it? How should you flip your mattress to get the maximum wear out of it? How does Google search the Internet? How many people should you date before settling down? Believe it or not, math plays a crucial role in answering all of these questions and more.

Math underpins everything in the cosmos, including us, yet too few of us understand this universal language well enough to revel in its wisdom, its beauty — and its joy. This deeply enlightening, vastly entertaining volume translates math in a way that is at once intelligible and thrilling. Each trenchant chapter of The Joy of x offers an “aha!” moment, starting with why numbers are so helpful, and progressing through the wondrous truths implicit in π, the Pythagorean theorem, irrational numbers, fat tails, even the rigors and surprising charms of calculus. Showing why he has won awards as a professor at Cornell and garnered extensive praise for his articles about math for the New York Times, Strogatz presumes of his readers only curiosity and common sense. And he rewards them with clear, ingenious, and often funny explanations of the most vital and exciting principles of his discipline.

Whether you aced integral calculus or aren’t sure what an integer is, you’ll find profound wisdom and persistent delight in The Joy of x.

About "The Calculus of Friendship"

From the publisher's website:
The Calculus of Friendship is the story of an extraordinary connection between a teacher and a student, as chronicled through more than thirty years of letters between them. What makes their relationship unique is that it is based almost entirely on a shared love of calculus. For them, calculus is more than a branch of mathematics; it is a game they love playing together, a constant when all else is in flux. The teacher goes from the prime of his career to retirement, competes in whitewater kayaking at the international level, and loses a son. The student matures from high school math whiz to Ivy League professor, suffers the sudden death of a parent, and blunders into a marriage destined to fail. Yet through it all they take refuge in the haven of calculus--until a day comes when calculus is no longer enough.

Like calculus itself, The Calculus of Friendship is an exploration of change. It's about the transformation that takes place in a student's heart, as he and his teacher reverse roles, as they age, as they are buffeted by life itself. Written by a renowned teacher and communicator of mathematics, The Calculus of Friendship is warm, intimate, and deeply moving. The most inspiring ideas of calculus, differential equations, and chaos theory are explained through metaphors, images, and anecdotes in a way that all readers will find beautiful, and even poignant. Math enthusiasts, from high school students to professionals, will delight in the offbeat problems and lucid explanations in the letters.

For anyone whose life has been changed by a mentor, The Calculus of Friendship will be an unforgettable journey.

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