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Some people have a fear of mathematics, possibly because of the abstract teaching methods that were in use in my schooldays. I get the impression that things have changed somewhat since then, but in any case this book provides an easy to understand some of the things that happen in everyday life.

The first chapter begins with numbers that occur frequently in plants, explaining why four-leafed clovers are rare. Depending on the species, plants tend to have three leaves like clovers, or five leaves like buttercups, pansies and primroses, rather than four. The chapter then describes more curiosities about numbers and ratios that occur in plants.

The ninth chapter deals with the title of the book, explaining why buses that begin their journeys at evenly spaced intervals and travelling along the same route don't usually arrive at their destination at evenly spaced intervals. The author suggests that it is quite common for a bus to catch up the one ahead, but that it is most unlikely that a third bus will catch these two, so buses may come in twos but rarely threes.

Other chapters deal with route planning, opinion polls, betting, apparent coincidences, angles, making tea, cutting cake, secret codes, sports rankings, game theory, set theory, map reading, traffic jams, queues, scheduling, logic and deduction. If some of these sound intimidating, don't worry as they are all presented in an easy-going style that makes them more interesting than they might otherwise be.

The final chapter presents a few mathematical tricks that you can play on unsuspecting children as a good way to get them interested in numbers. All in all, this book presents mathematics in an entertaining and easily accessible way. If you enjoy it, there is a sequel, How Long Is a Piece of String? by the same author, but if you are choosing between them, I'd nominate this one as slightly the better of the two.
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on 29 September 2006
Maths books, even 'popular' ones, generally approach the subject from an abstract point of view. That is partly because mathematics is a beautiful subject in its own right, regardless of its link with the real world. The problem, however, is that most people don't see it that way. What makes 'Why do buses' different is that it is centred firmly on the world of everyday experiences that most people can relate to, like coincidences and traffic jams, and from that starting point it goes on to explore the mathematical ideas behind those phenomena. The book isn't nearly as mathematical as it could be, but if there was more maths in it, I'm prepared to bet that far fewer people would ever have read it, which would defeat the point of it.
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on 11 June 2000
I was looking for a book to widen my knowledge of Maths, because I am thinking of applying to do it at university. I wanted to read around the subject in an interesting way. "Why Do Buses Come In Threes" was a brilliant read! It makes Maths a lot of fun and it tells you about many different ways in which Maths can be used in real-life. Most of the book is easy to understand, although some of it is harder and more mathematical, but it is truly great and I would definitely recommend it.
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VINE VOICEon 15 April 2006
If you have an interest in the reasons for things, a hunch that maths may explain these things, and an inability to grasp mathematical formulae then this may well be the book you're looking for.

After three unsuccessful attempts to read The Magical Maze by Ian Stewart, I found this book on the shop shelves and thought I'd give it a go.

Outstanding. Where The Magical Maze illustrates nature's relationship with maths but fails to explain it, this book succeeds and then some.

This was an absolute pleasure to read and taught me things that my school teachers should have, had they had the imagination and enthusiasm of the authors.

The greatest revelation was how counter-intuitive a lot of fairly simple mathematical problems are.

I now feel cleverer than when I started the book which can only be a good thing!
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VINE VOICEon 28 March 2005
The two messages of this book are that mathematics is important to everyday life, and that it's fun. Like the earlier books of Martin Gardener, this book aims to make mathematics relevant and accessible, but with a British rather than American slant.
Have you ever wondered why flowers often have five petals, how bookies' odds work, how you always end up in the slowest queue, or, indeed, why buses come in threes? If so, then this is the book for you.
In the course of a humorous, chatty discourse on the mysteries of life the authors introduce a number of branches of mathematics, including probability, topology, statistics and queuing theory, to name just a few.
To aid casual readers or those who've previously found the subject forbidding the maths is kept at a fairly simple level. However there's still enough detail to be useful in other applications. I used this book as a reminder when trying to solve a problem related to software performance, and others who don't exercise their maths every day might also find it a useful memory jogger.
Whether as an introduction if you've never enjoyed maths before, or a reminder if you have, I thoroughly recommend this book. I can also recommend the companion volume "How Long is a Piece of String?"
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on 8 June 2006
I just finished reading "Why Do Buses Come In Threes?" and I was disappointed with it. I was expecting something more and the book sure had the potential to be a quite interesting book about the use of mathematics on everyday subjects.

The problem though is that by trying to make it simple for people with no maths background, the authors went too far - they hint on mathematical explanations for some of the topics presented, but they never get to actually present the maths, albeit in a simple form.

It's not enough to have someone telling you that some mundane phenomena is explained by maths, you should take the time to actually explain the maths behind it, and this book fails in doing that.
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on 18 April 2009
It becomes more and more apparent with each chapter just how much maths is in everyday life, and it's not just obvious counting patterns either, there are connections to some strong sequences and pi plus others. Overall a great read.
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on 12 April 2015
This is a short, well-written book chatting about a variety of statistical and mathematical curiosities. I haven't given it a higher rating because although the writing is good, there is very little here that is new and there is generally little depth in the explanations - sometimes none at all. For example, there is a clear and concise description of the Königsburg bridges problem and a serviceable introduction to the "birthday paradox". These are both old chestnuts and - almost inevitably - this book doesn't really have anything new to say about them. Of course if you don't know about these and think you might then this book may be just what you want. I recommend using Amazon's "look inside" to check the contents list and the sample text - you decide.
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on 3 June 2000
This book is a fun look at mathematics and answers some real questions, rather than the convoluted ones we had in our books at school. I particularly liked the bit about how fast to run in the rain!
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on 8 June 2007
"Sir, what's the point of maths?" The question that any maths teacher dreads. This is one of the books that I always recommend to my older pupils (aged 15 plus) who want to see how maths connects to the sort of things they are interested in. There are nuggets of interest in every chapter, with some serious mathematical ideas interspersed with other much lighter stuff. Apart from its sister book How Long is A Piece of String, I know of no other maths book that is pitched in this sort of fun and accessible tone with such real-world content.
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