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4.4 out of 5 stars
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4.4 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 8 May 2003
I had never thought that the words 'Maths book' and 'page-turner' could possibly go together, but David Acheson's small book "1089 and All That" proved me totally wrong.
You don't need any more than an AS-Level knowledge of Maths (even GCSE Higher would do) to be able to understand this book, as Acheson starts from the basics. Concepts are explained rapidly and succintly, without all the boring mumbo-jumbo that made you hate Maths lessons at school.
The most amazing thing about this book is the way Acheson explains the concepts, showing us where all these formulas and mathematical functions came from, and, most amazing of all, where they can be found in nature.
Whether you liked or disliked Maths at school, this book will change your perception of Maths completely. I found myself either thinking or exclaiming aloud "Wow!" every few pages! This book will probably make you despise your old Maths teachers even more, as you'll find that the 'boring' equations and functions you were taught in school have another side (or can be explained in another way) which most teachers never mention - and which is much more interesting and relevant to real life.
What this book proves is that Maths is a science of discovery - it's not about weirdo geniuses making up complex equations to confuse everyone else. You'll learn that things like pi and e can be found in real life - and thereby realise that they were discovered, not invented. You'll also find that the "Indian Rope Trick" is actually possible, in the right conditions (I won't go further, as that'll spoil the book).
At the time of buying this book, I was undecided about what subject to do at university. Due to the way I had been taught Maths, I came to regard it as a 'boring but necessary' subject. This book left me in wonder - it changed my perception of Maths completely. By the time I had finished reading it I had decided that I was going to do Maths at university.
But don't let that scare you off! Whether you intend to study Maths or not, this book is a fascinating read. Buy it now - it's worth every penny and I guarantee you'll love it.
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on 16 June 2003
David Acheson has written a beautiful introduction to mathematics, showing why the subject is facinating and fun. The 'icing on the cake' of this book is its delightful & quirky illustrations which range from cartoons to pictures of a model train set (perhaps the author's own?).
I'm convinced anyone interested in maths can read this book with enjoyment and profit - from teenagers to those who were scared off the subject first time round. Mathematics is a facinating & enjoyable subject full of depth & surprises- but unfortunately it is also a subject which many people are needlessly frightened of. If you are one of those people, or if you are the sort of person who just likes a good read- then buy this book - I promise you that you won't be disappointed.
As a post script, if you are a student studying maths at university; you'll still enjoy this book (I did and I'm a mathematics lecturer!) but a book which you'll enjoy far more & will be helpful in your studies is Acheson's 'From Calculus to Chaos' also published by OUP & also a 'five star' read.
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on 20 March 2004
I am currently training to be a maths teacher, and bought this book largely out of curiosity. But what a great little book! It is written in a style that is understandable to anyone without a great deal of mathematical knowledge, but is still interesting to anyone with a maths background. The style is lively and entertaining, and there are plenty of pictures and diagrams. Chapters such as 'The Trouble with Algebra', 'On being as Small as Possible', 'Are We Nearly There?', 'What is the secret of All Life', and 'Not Quite the Indian Rope Trick' introduce topics such as algebra, geometry, caluculus, infinity and far, far more. It has lots of fascinating little snippits that appealed not only to me, but also to my husband (who is not a mathematician), and my 13 year-old son. A lovely little book!
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on 17 October 2007
Alarmed at how much of my children's maths lessons was being lost to determining who had thrown this or that piece of paper, I sought a source of inspiration to keep their love of mathematics alive. I have found it. "1089 and all that" is perfect for the job.

Do not think that this is a book aimed at children, though, it is suitable for everyone, including lecturers and will be of benefit to many. First year students obliged to take a maths course will find many stimulating thoughts, though they should read the book with caution, they might just find themselves wanting to major in maths. Such late discovery of the joys of maths could be avoided by presenting all maths and physics teachers with their personal copy to enable them to liven up their classes with interesting asides, I suspect that, if only he could be motivated to do so, Acheson could inspire the least interested slob to stop throwing trajectiles and study their motion instead.

I had imagined that the task of building up my children's flagging interest might be slightly forced, even once I'd identified a suitable book, but I couldn't have been more wrong. Just a quick look at the first few pages on-line sent my sons charging off to tell their friends to "Think of a three digit number..." And now that it has arrived, I am redundant, because David Acheson's little hardback, does a far better job than I could ever do. Clear text, amusing cartoons, diagrams, and even blackboard look alikes, every page is a feast. "1089 and all that" is a book that you could race through, but you probably won't because you will wish to savour every tasty morsel of this cordon bleu fare.
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on 5 April 2011
There are many many populist books concerning maths and science these days. This book is to be picked out from them and recommended for several reasons. It is 'handy', but not trivialising. It is very readable and very sound in its knowledge and communication of history culture ideas and mathematics. It starts with a little 'trick', these always go down well. Although I have read many of the current 'demystifying' tomes on mathematics I gained from this one in its ability to stand back from the processes eg calculus and describe their function in terms mathematical and not so. Some readers may find its references to '1066 and all that' and 'Molesworth' a little too upper middle class 1960's but as a working class woman (ok, groan) as opposed to a public school white man I found them fond. SO -as a mathematician (nearly) I was taken by it, and a defensively non-mathematical friend was also hooked.
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on 19 May 2003
This is a delightful, short, quirky, and highly readable introduction to why mathematics is facinating, fun, and important.
It is one of those rare books that a GCSE pupil, or a teacher can both read and both enjoy, and both learn from.
Five stars - buy and enjoy.
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on 21 June 2004
I had the pleasure of attending a summer school at Oxford where the maths lectures were taken by David Acheson. On the back of that, I bought this book and I'm glad I did! It's interesting and manages to explain things without patronizing those readers with mathematical knowledge, and yet helps those with very little. Highly recommended!
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on 16 October 2005
A great little book, which makes mathematics accessible to anyone who wants to know. Written in a really friendly, non-condescending manner; Acheson wants you to like his subject, but takes great care not to force it upon you. Recommended for mathematicians looking for a spot of light relief, and non-mathematicians who just want to know a little bit more.
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on 21 June 2015
At last, a method to explain mathematics in a manner that can be readily understood.
This book explains the different branches of maths and why we use or need them in manner that is a pleasure to read and even humorous in places. This approach, or one like it, should be adopted into the school curriculum. Maths lessons would no longer be an arcane mandatory chore, and become a useful learning experience.
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on 28 February 2010
First off, the positive - this book is very easy to read, accessable to those unfamiliar with maths, and interesting. There is enough in this book to keep you interested for hours.... but only a few, as the book is very short and small.

The accessability of this book is at the expense of more detailed explanation for many topics covered - you will definately have to read elsewhere to get to the bottom of any of the topics covered in this book.

All in all an entertaining introduction to maths, particularly suited to non experts - given how unexpectedly short and small (postcard sized) this book is though (with large text to boot...), the price seems a little steep....
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