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on 13 September 2016
A bit dry, but a good exposition of modern mathematics
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on 11 November 2011
Timothy Gowers has written a very readable and engaging introduction to mathematics covering a surprisingly broad range of topics considering the space limitations of the format imposed by this series of books. The first few chapters about general aspects of mathematical thought and the final chapter on the mathematical community in general are particularly enjoyable.

This is the best Oxford Very Short Introduction I have read so far. I would highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in mathematics.
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on 4 June 2010
I'm a biologist myself and failed horribly at math when I was in school. I wanted to learn more about the mindset of the mathematician and this book was perfect.

Even with my lack of knowledge on mathematical matters I found it enjoyable to read and more importantly I found it stimulating. It was interesting to see how mathematicians approach problems and solve them.
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on 5 January 2011
It's well known that some concepts in mathematics can be utterly mind-bending - concepts such as curved space, higher dimensional geometry, infinity, and more besides. To be able to work with any of these, you often need to let go of the urge to visualise something and instead settle for merely conceptualising it. You need, in other words, to feel comfortable thinking in a thoroughly abstract way. This book is an introduction to that way of thinking. It's not one of those books that joyously recaps all the rules and syntax you'd forgotten since leaving school. Rather, its aim is simply to give you the means to grapple with core aspects of advanced mathematics.

While this book doesn't overwhelm with technicalities (a British GCSE or equivalent in the subject should be sufficient prior knowledge for most readers), the rules and processes are not ignored, and there are brief introductions/reminders of topics such as Euclidean geometry, irrational numbers and so on. However the author's aims and emphasis are decidedly more psychological and philosophical. Why should we accept the axioms proposed by mathematicians? What exactly is a number? What does mathematical proof actually mean? These questions first need to be explored before embarking on the path to more esoteric concepts such as multi-dimensional geometry and manifolds (incidentally, useful for anyone interested in string theory).

The chapters are sensibly structured and Gowers's enthusiasm for the subject radiates from each page without ever sinking into that patronising "Hey kids, maths is fun!" style of writing. The last chapter contains a selection of genuinely interesting FAQs, including some good suggestions as to why so many people seem to strongly dislike mathematics, compared with say biology or English literature (about which the non-enthusiast may just feel indifferent). Overall I found this more interesting that expected; a useful take on the subject that lays the groundwork for some of the more advanced areas of mathematics.
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on 30 November 2015
My third VSI book read ... and really superb. I like my maths but am no expert ... but from my point of view this has an abundance of humour, understanding, and above all gives the subject crystal clarity whilst all the while offering tempting glimpses of what lies further to be explored ... this is an excellently written intro.
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on 8 November 2014
This series of books are really good, i have the quantum theory book along with the mathematics book. They make the underlying points and discussions very clear i could go on and on but the main point is these book are the bees' knees !
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on 11 December 2016
This could have been a very difficult and incoherent book for the majority, but it has been so well written. You sense the joy and spark of the author in his writing and he has chosen the topics well. Highly recommended
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on 27 November 2014
A very informative book that covers a lot quickly- would advise for people studying maths/physics to AS or A-level and intend on taking it further. It certainly gives a good basis and shows a lot of real word examples.
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on 9 January 2012
An eye-opening view into mathematics. I was worried at first that I wouldn't understand it as I found maths very boring in school, but Gowers gives lucid, clear and stimulating explanations. He makes what most of us consider a dry and painful subject into a fascinating little book that opens your eyes to an entire new world.
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on 17 October 2010
This is an excellent book for people with some mathematical understanding. I would say it is perfect for sixth form students studying mathematics.
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