2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Highly enjoyable read,
This review is from: Alex's Adventures in Numberland (Paperback)
Surprisingly, for a book filled with equations and graphs, I found this difficult to put down. I'm not even especially fond of maths or numbers, but I nevertheless found this compelling reading. I think I got hooked with the story, in the opening chapter, of the Munduruku. The Munduruku are a tribe of Amazonian Indians whose language has no number bigger than five and even this is debatable - it might actually be four. The author went on to explore the evolution of counting and the need for a language of numbers and how it needs to relate to our real world experiences.
The book is really a history of mathematics and it makes fascinating reading. My favourite chapter was Chance is a Fine Thing which looked at probability through the eyes of the guy who works out the probabilities for the world's largest manufacturer of slot machines - a typical individual slot machine in a busy casino, it seems, makes a profit of half a million dollars every 60 hours. The author then explored the odds of winning anything from roulette, through blackjack and even told of a guy who worked out an algorithm to win on lotteries around the world before retiring to a tropical island in the South Pacific.
There is a quirkiness to the author's approach to maths that is what makes this book so readable. It covers such diverse territory as the origins of Sudoku and algebra; how some infinities are bigger than others; and how to instantly add 15 three digit numbers (when each one appears for 0.2 seconds) and have the correct answer as soon as the last number appears. I loved his story about buying a pair of scales to explore the consistency of the weight of a baguette bought on a daily basis from Greggs the Bakers - accompanied by a photo of a pile of curling up baguettes on his kitchen floor (he did this for a 100 days, but soon got tired of eating baguette every day).
I thoroughly enjoyed it. The only thing I disliked about it was an omission. There was no discussion of calculus - which I would truly love to understand.