### Monday, May 22, 2006

## #23: Letters to a Young Mathematician

*Letters to a Young Mathematician*by Ian Stewart was an excellent read. It is 21 chapters long and each chapter is a letter written by the author to a girl named Meg. The chapters are organized in a somewhat chronological order and written to Meg as she progress through her career in mathematics starting as a high school student all the way through getting tenure at a university. Stewart address several questions about mathematicians, who they are and what they do, and mathematics, how it can be approached and taught. I believe this book would be interesting to anyone who enjoys math and maybe some who don't.

Here's a little taste of the book...

On what a mathematician is..."A mathematician is someone who sees opportunities for doing mathematics."

On doing math..."I've begun to observe that when people ask why something is necessary, it is usually because they feel uncomfortable doing it and are hoping to be let off the hook. A student who knows how to construct proofs never asks what they're for."

On math in the world around us..."Our society consumes a lot of math, but it all happens behind the scenes...Some of us, however, need to know how to do the math, or none of these wonders could function. It would be great if the rest of us were aware of just how strongly we rely on mathematics in our daily lives; the problem with putting math so far behind the scenes it that many people have no idea its there at all."

Thanks mathematicians for making this world a better place to live!

Comments:

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math is radical! har har!

i'm actually quite disappointed by the omission of the "rainbow analogy". maybe that was a different book.... or maybe i just made up that it came from a book.... or maybe i should just stop writing now!

i'm actually quite disappointed by the omission of the "rainbow analogy". maybe that was a different book.... or maybe i just made up that it came from a book.... or maybe i should just stop writing now!

You're right the rainbow analogy was in this book and I suppose it is worthy of comment. The author addressed the issue of math in nature and wrote about the math behind rainbows. In this letter he noted that each person sees a rainbow a little bit differently because each person sees it from a different angle through different drops of water. Because of this fact he concluded that rainbows are very personal. I found this meaningful because I know the rainbow is a promise from God. It really impacted me that every rainbow I've seen has been my own personal rainbow from God. How loving is that!

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