Top positive review
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Excellent and Comprehensive History of Counting
on 27 July 1999
The Universal History of Numbers is the most comprehensive book I have come across on the subject by quite some way, and I have probably read over 100.
The style of writing makes the book easy to read, and it assumes almost no prior knowledge. Having said that the book is not exactly light bed time reading, there are nearly 650 large pages of quite small writing. It would take a *very* dedicated or interested reader to tackle the book from cover to cover. In my opinion it is best to read the introduction and first one or two chapters, and then to dip into the bits of the book you are particularly interested in. Because of this the book would not be the first I would recomend as an introduction to the subject, try Graham Flegg - Numbers: Their history and meaning, although I would not discourage anyone from buying the book either.
As a resource for Teachers of mathematics the book is excellent. It covers the number system of almost every concievable culture and any teacher with the slightest imagination could use the information in an interesting way in the classroom.
The book covers a lot of information which is not dealt with by the standard english language history of mathematics books, and as such is an invaluable resource for anyone with an interest in the subject.
One thing I particularly liked about the book was that it gave various different theories for each question, for instance 'What is the origin of 'our' numerals?', and the reasons for and against each. This was very interesting, as well as helping to explain why historians belive what they believe.
The only criticism of this book I have is to do with its physical contruction. The pages are thin, and so is the cover, so it is very bendy, I would have prefered a hardback edition. However if it keeps the price down.
To sum up this is an excellent book, and an invaluable addition to the collection of anyone with an interest in mathematics, it's history or it's teaching.