Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Joy of X by Steven Strogatz

I will be the first to admit that I'm not good at math. Despite taking Higher Maths in IB (I just practiced so many times that I somehow knew how to solve the question), I still didn't understand a lot of concepts. And despite all the quotes about how math was beautiful in my textbooks, I still just don't get it. And I suspect that this problem isn't unique to me a lone. So, I was really intrigued by the promise of this book to be a guided (and fun) tour of math.

The Joy of X, unlike what the name suggests, doesn't start from algebra. Instead, it starts from what we all consider basic - the concept of numbers. From there, we move on to addition and subtraction, and the book gets progressively harder as we head into algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics and finally, the biggest number of them all, infinity.

If you're looking for a "how-to" guide book, then this book probably isn't for you. After reading it, I can't say that I fully understand all the basic concepts in maths, but I am much more interested in them now. Each chapter is short and sweet, and I suspect that the fact that each chapter is fairly short means that there is less time to understand each concept. So what we do get is a very interesting introduction to the concept, designed to spark your interest.

And really, with the internet (and all the math textbooks lying around. Oh, you already burned yours?), you can always study the topics that interest you in-depth by yourself. To me, the true gem of this book is how it encouraged me to regain hope that math can be fun and rewarding.

I would say, that if you're looking for a fun and interesting explanation on one particular topic, you should check out the "manga-guide" series (e.g. The Manga Guide to Statistics). But if you're looking to encourage yourself after feeling like you will never understand mathematics, or simply want to regain a spark of curiosity in maths (doesn't it too often feel like the mere memorisation of formulae?), then you should definitely pick up this book.

Disclaimer: I got this book free from NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.

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