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Thinking in Numbers: How Maths Illuminates Our Lives Hardcover – 16 Aug 2012

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Thinking in Numbers: How Maths Illuminates Our Lives + Born on a Blue Day: The Gift of an Extraordinary Mind + Embracing the Wide Sky: A Tour Across the Horizons of the Mind: The Enormous Potential of Your Mind
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (16 Aug. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1444737406
  • ISBN-13: 978-1444737400
  • Product Dimensions: 15.7 x 2.4 x 24.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 120,615 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Daniel Tammet was born in a working-class suburb of London, England, on 31 January 1979, the eldest of nine children. His mother had worked as a secretarial assistant; his father was employed at a sheet metal factory. Both became full-time parents.

Despite early childhood epileptic seizures and atypical behaviour, Tammet received a standard education at local schools. His learning was enriched by an early passion for reading. He won the town's 'Eager Reader' prize at the age of eleven. At secondary school he was twice named Student of the Year. He matriculated in 1995 and completed his Advanced level studies (in French, German, and History) two years later.

In 1998 Tammet took up a volunteer English teaching post in Kaunas, Lithuania, returning to London the following year. In 2002 he launched the online language learning company Optimnem. It was named a member of the UK's 'National Grid for Learning' in 2006.

In 2004, Tammet was finally able to put a name to his difference when he was diagnosed with high-functioning autistic savant syndrome by Professor Simon Baron-Cohen at Cambridge University's Autism Research Centre.

The same year, on March 14, Tammet came to public attention when he recited the mathematical constant Pi (3.141...) from memory to 22,514 decimal places in 5 hours, 9 minutes, without error. The recitation, at the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford, set a European record.

Tammet began writing in 2005. His first book, Born On A Blue Day, subtitled 'A Memoir of Asperger's and an Extraordinary Mind', was first published in the UK in 2006 and became a Sunday Times bestseller. The US edition, published in 2007, spent 8 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. In 2008, the American Library Association named it a 'Best Book for Young Adults'. It was also a Booklist Editors' Choice. It has sold over 500,000 copies worldwide, and been translated into more than 20 languages.

In 2009, Tammet published Embracing the Wide Sky, a personal survey of current neuroscience. The French edition (co-translated by Tammet himself) became one of the country's best-selling non-fiction books of the year. It also appeared on bestseller lists in the UK, Canada, and Germany, and has been translated into numerous languages.

Thinking in Numbers, Tammet's first collection of essays, is published in August 2012.

In 2008 Tammet emigrated to France. He lives in Paris.

Product Description


Thinking in Numbers is unprecedented: a pitch-perfect duet between mathematics and literature ... Mathematics, Tammet says, is illimitable. It is a language through which the human imagination expresses itself. Presumably this means mathematics has, or deserves, a literature. In Tammet, it already has a laureate. (New Scientist)

A collection of essays on subjects as diverse as Shakespeare and Tolstoy, a rumination on snow and another on chess, as well as a fantastically nuanced piece about his mother. It is a collection which showcases Tammet's extraordinary talent . . . a writer of unique capabilities. (Scotsman Magazine)

An interesting and often beautiful approach: Tammet writes well... and his love of numbers shines from the page... Tammet's discussion of big numbers is fascinating. (Daily Telegraph)

Tammet's choice of subjects is personal, and wonderfully eclectic... What lifts Tammet's entertaining collection above the ordinary are the often surprising links that he sees, explores and explains. (Sunday Telegraph)

Explores the 'what if' of maths and links it with literature and life. He is an exhilarating thinker, an exciting writer, and looks at the world with an eclectic, quizzical eye. (Saga Magazine)

Tammet is an accomplished writer with a prose style akin to a warm embrace... scintillating ... enlightens and entertains in (approximately) equal measure. (Daily Express)

When he talks about his own extreme skills, such as his feat of pi memorisation, the book comes alive. (BBC Focus)

Daniel Tammet's unique take on the world will prove that life - not just classroom maths - is more than just a numbers game. (Gay Times)

As fluid with words as with numbers, his essays are artfully constructed: intriguing openings to entice us; interesting snippets of history; accessible but unpatronising tones; neat endings. (Independent)

In Tammet's mind, literature, art and maths are united. For him, maths' real-life applications are not merely tax returns and restaurant bills, but the storytelling of an infinite subject and the reasoning behind our daily existence. (The Huffington Post)

Thinking in Numbers is a mind-expanding, kinetic aesthetic experience. My mind shot off the page, spurred to see universal patterns very much alive in everything from the natural world we share to how imagery and metaphor occur in my own creative process. Tammet's poetic mathematics are beautiful guideposts for thinking about life and even love. As I read, I found myself saying, 'Yes, this is true, and this is true, and this is so true...'

(Amy Tan)

Always informative, always entertaining, Daniel Tammet never loses his respect for the mystery of the universe of number. (JM Coetzee)

Born on a Blue Day introduced us to the extraordinary phenomenon of Daniel Tammet, and Thinking in Numbers enlarges one's wonder at Tammet's mind and his all-embracing vision of the world as grounded in numbers. (Oliver Sacks, MD)

Book Description

Mathematical savant and bestselling author of BORN ON A BLUE DAY, this is Tammet's engaging and personal exploration of what numbers can teach us about our lives and minds.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Mr I J Williams on 3 Sept. 2012
Format: Hardcover
This series of 25 essays is clearly well researched and offers some fascinating insights into mathematics from literary, philosophical and scientific perspectives. The range of subjects covered is diverse and eclectic, providing us with some surprising, and occasionally challenging, insights.

Each essay is as varied as it is unique. I thought the essays that dealt with the history of mathematical thinking were very interesting, particularly those concerning classical Greek philosophers and mathematicians.

For me, one of the highlights of the book include "Are We Alone?", a chapter which looked at some of the history of mankind's search for extra-terrestrial intelligence and discusses the probabilities involved in this field. "The Calendar of Omar Khayyam" was another really interesting chapter and, I think, probably my favourite of the discursive historical chapters. Other highlights include "Selves and Statistics", "On Big Numbers" and "Talking Chess".

A few chapters cover aspects of Tammet's life and are more reflective, rather than scholarly. They provide a fascinating insight into Tammet's life and how mathematical thinking permeates his consciousness.

This is not a book about a high functioning autistic savant; should anyone wants to know and understand more about Tammet himself, then they should read his earlier work "Born on a Blue Day". It is not a treatise on mathematical theories either. In 25 essays Tammet's passion for numbers combines with his accomplished prose to tell the story of how numbers shape the world in which we live, how they form the structural beauty of a poem and a snowflake, allow us to conceptualise vast distances and numbers from zero to infinity.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Timothy W. Dumble on 18 Jan. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This collection of thoughtful essays rewards the reader by both providing a fascinating insight into the mind of an autistic savant and in opening our minds to the pervasiveness of numbers in our lives and how the quest for meaning through the seeking of pattern and the abstraction of reality underpins human sentience.

In 'Eternity in an Hour', Tammet brilliantly depicts the burden as well as the gift that Asperger's Syndrome is, his obsession with lampposts and the distance between them crippling his ability to walk to and from school. Frequent mention is made of the different colours of numbers- suggesting the author's experience of synaesthesia (a mixing of the senses) this too has a profound influence on his experience of the world.

Particularly memorable amongst the eclectic collection of ideas explored here is: the reason why Islam was such a driving force behind time keeping and calendars, how prime numbers influence Haiku, Tanka, sestinas and other forms of poetry, how calculus (the mathematical study of change) influenced Tolstoy and an explanation of why a year is longer for a ten year old than it is for a forty year old. A recurring theme is infinity and how fractions afford us an insight into the infinite.

In 'Selves and Statistics' he movingly reasserts the position of the individual over that of society as a whole in discussing averages. Without resorting to formulae or complex maths, the author successfully explains how maths can inform our understanding of life.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Brian Clegg TOP 500 REVIEWER on 16 Aug. 2014
Format: Paperback
This collection of 25 essays by Daniel Tammet, probably best known for his feat of memorising vast quantities of digits of pi, is an enjoyable light way of getting an introduction to some of the reasons that maths is more than just a mechanism for doing science or adding up your shopping bills.

Some essay collections don’t work so well in book form, but these make excellent bite-sized nuggets, with Tammet ranging far and wide over a landscape that successfully pulls in poets, authors and playwrights as much as it does mathematicians. I loved, for instance, the parallels Tammet brings out between Tolstoy’s view of history and calculus.

Inevitably in such a collection there will be some pieces that appeal less to an individual reader. I was less interested in the more autobiographical essays, but I am sure they would appeal to others. If I’m being picky I’d also say Tammet is occasionally a little loose factually. So, for instance, he says the odds of him being in a particular location is 1 in 2 – he’s either there or he’s not. That’s a very strange way of defining odds, which usually means the probability of something: and clearly there isn’t a 1 in 2 chance of him being (say) in my kitchen.

Overall, though, a very enjoyable and informative read.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By S. Meadows on 11 Oct. 2013
Format: Paperback
This was by no means one of the books that I had ever intended to read. I'd never heard of the author nor had this particular book been recommended to me. I found it whilst perusing the science section. The title alone was good enough to make me take a closer look, after which I thought this was worth paying a little bit of money for.

The book is written as a series of short essays, seemingly distinct and with little to no overall narrative to it. So it's a good book to have lying around that can be picked up, read for 15-20 minutes and put down again.

It covers a variety of topics from Tammet's point of view. It must be noted that Tammet (not his real name, he changed it to `better fit' his identity) is described as a high functioning autistic savant. In short, he's a really clever chap. Now I've come across one or two in my time and have been able to hold my own against them in some intellectual challenges. However, they usually get the upper hand on me and I can't quite emulate their speed or agility of thought, which I admit has been a cause of some chagrin from the age of 17 onwards.

So it was with some relish, and a little touch of rivalry, that I wanted to get to see the world through such a savant's eyes. In many respects, what I was reading seemed to be the account of a more articulate version of myself, with the only difference that Tammet views numbers as colours. I knew several in the maths department at university who did this, but I always think in terms of `complements' - i.e. what number would you need to add to make a round number? So if someone says 7, I think 3. If they say 83, I think 17.

I probably ought to confess that I finished this review a few weeks after reading the book, so I am relying a little on memory.
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