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Strange Curves, Counting Rabbits, & Other Mathematical Explorations Hardcover – 23 Nov 2003

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (23 Nov 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691113211
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691113210
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 16.6 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,401,282 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2004

"Keith Ball demonstrated that though math may not be laugh-out-loud hilarious, it is deeply and gloriously satisfying. . . . Ball's style is pacy and informal, and he does far more than just show off polished results. This is math with the hood up and the engine running."--Ben Longstaff, New Scientist

"A recreational math book with enough heft to give its intended audience a series of mental workouts, ranging from the rough equivalent of a stroll to the corner mailbox to a hard mile run. The writing style is open and engaging."--Choice

"A gem. . . . Each topic is taken up in a setting that immediately generates interest . . . Ball's achievement is to have come up with a selection of topics which are fresh and unusual. . . . It is a pleasure to report that the book is written in limpid, graceful, elegant English prose--nowadays a nearly vanished species."--Stacy G. Langton, MAA Online

"The author's writing style is informal, inviting, and clear. . . . This book gives a lively and carefully written treatment of a number of interesting topics. . . . The range of topics is wide, so even the experienced mathematician may learn something new."--Harold R. Parks, Notices of the American Mathematical Society

"[I]f you salivate at the thought of working those calculations, then run don't walk to the bookshop--for once they've produced a book just for you."--Peter Spitz, Popular Science

From the Inside Flap

"This book belongs on the shelf next to the classic What is Mathematics? as a resource for students who seek a broader view of mathematics and for teachers and professors who want to enrich their classes. A great addition to the books that spread the beauty and substance of mathematics to a wide audience."--Sherman Stein, author of How the Other Half Thinks

"This book represents a good mix of topics, covering a range of classroom-tested material that is accessible to students. The author's presentation is lucid and flows well."--Adam McBride, University of Strathclyde

"This book was a joy to read. In a relaxed and user friendly style, Keith Ball displays the relevance and beauty of a variety of mathematical topics that transcend the usual school syllabus. The level is elementary, but some of the material would not disgrace students in a university undergraduate course (and even those at more advanced levels could learn a few things, too!)."--Julian Havil, author of Gamma: Exploring Euler's Constant

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 25 Jun 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent book with lots of great ideas and new ways of thinking about some common (and not so common) ideas in maths. It's perfect for a motivated GCSE student. The style is gentle and easy to read. I really enjoyed it and would recommend it highly to anyone who likes a good mathematical read. If you are a maths teacher you'll find lots of bits and bobs that you can use to add variety and interest to your lessons. I look forward to his next book.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 6 reviews
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Interesting for autodidacts interested in math 13 Dec 2003
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I would agree with the back cover advanced praise for this book. I wanted to make a special note for people who consider themselves to be self-starters in terms of their interest in math: This book has problems throughout the book with SOLUTIONS. The best way to learn math is to do it. While I enjoy a lot of 'pop math' books out there, I am disappointed that there hasn't been an attempt to include a few illustrative problems with solutions (books without solutions aren't going to be useful to autodidacts or even more serious students of the subject). Well, finally this book offers what many of us have been looking for.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Great - well written and entertaining 29 Dec 2003
By Sally MacLennan - Published on
Format: Hardcover
On opening this Christmas present I inwardly groaned - didn't like the title and the subjects seemed to be ones that had been covered many times elsewhere. BUT...I was so wrong! The writing is clear and entertaining, and the subjects are covered in new and interesting ways. If you like 'popular maths' books then you'll find Ball to be a great new author to keep an eye on. If you are a math teacher or instructor you'll find lots of material here that can only enliven your lessons. One of the best popular maths books for a long time.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Just about as good as it gets 29 Sep 2006
By Martin P. Cohen - Published on
Format: Hardcover
It should be easy for a mathematician to write a book on recreational mathematics, right? Ha! You can look through my reviews for some godawful examples of this genre.

It is not enough to know mathematics. The writer has to write well and to have an understanding of the mindset of those of us who are strictly amateurs. The material has to have intrinsic interest and the explanations have to be clear and well motivated but not condescending. The problems should be challenging but not impossible and they should serve to gain insight into the material. And they should come with answers!

All of this Ball accomplishes. The quality of the writing reminds me of Martin Gardner. There is one thing that I need to emphasize. This book contains proofs, because proofs are the heart and soul of mathematics. The proofs are exceptionally clear, but if mathematical proofs are not your thing then go elsewhere. If you are not intimidated by proofs and have a knowledge of high school matematics up through calculus then you are in for a real treat.

I particularly liked the chapter on continued fractions. This is the first time that I have seen a treatment of the matrix approach. I do have one very small quibble. The matrix approach allows for a very simple derivation of the formula for convergents, which I was able to discover for myself but which is not presented in the book. All of the other proofs I have seen for the formula do not provide a derivation, but instead do a proof by induction. I hope that future editions of the book include the derivation of the convegents formula.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Clear and Friendly 9 May 2006
By G. Poirier - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is a book on recreational mathematics. As such, the topics covered are diverse - from number theory to more practical matters such as probability. However, the common denominator is the author's clarity of expression - an essential quality for a book of this nature. Because of this diversity of topics, some may be of more interest to the reader than others. In my case, I particularly enjoyed the chapters on shared birthdays, Stirling's formula for factorials and Pad? approximants. Suggested problems are found throughout, with solutions at the end of each chapter. Written in a very friendly style, this book will surely appeal to math buff at all levels.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
this book contains a lot of interesting aspects of mathematics not usually covered elsewhere 27 July 2008
By Patrick Regan - Published on
Format: Paperback
Strange Curves, Counting Rabbits and other Mathematical Explorations contains a lot of interesting material but be prepared for some difficult problems as you read through the book. Strange Curves... is not light reading but rather a book you will want to spend some time digesting. The author's choice of material is somewhat unique; the author himself says he tried to cover material not found in other popular math books. I really enjoyed reading this book and attempting to solve the problems for which solutions are provided at the end of each chapter. I recommend Strange Curves.. for those interested in a book that is accessible but somewhat challenging and for those who have read many popular math books and feel they have read about all the topics there are to read about in the layperson mathematics press.
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