The Math Gene: How Mathematical Thinking Evolved and why Numbers are Like Gossip

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Basic Books, 2000 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 328 pages
10 Reviews
Why is math so hard? And why, despite this difficulty, are some people so good at it? If there’s some inborn capacity for mathematical thinking—which there must be, otherwise no one could do it —why can’t we all do it well? Keith Devlin has answers to all these difficult questions, and in giving them shows us how mathematical ability evolved, why it’s a part of language ability, and how we can make better use of this innate talent.He also offers a breathtakingly new theory of language development—that language evolved in two stages, and its main purpose was not communication—to show that the ability to think mathematically arose out of the same symbol-manipulating ability that was so crucial to the emergence of true language. Why, then, can’t we do math as well as we can speak? The answer, says Devlin, is that we can and do—we just don’t recognize when we’re using mathematical reasoning.

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Review: The Math Gene: How Mathematical Thinking Evolved And Why Numbers Are Like Gossip

User Review  - Jamie - Goodreads

This is about things that I really think that I would be interested in (math and the human thought process), but it just didn't hold my interest enough to make it all the way through. I get the uneasy ... Read full review

Review: The Math Gene: How Mathematical Thinking Evolved And Why Numbers Are Like Gossip

User Review  - Daniel Belay - Goodreads

Devlin argues that mathematical thinking evolved as the human brain developed the capacity for language, and spends a majority of the book discussing human evolution and linguistics. While starting ... Read full review


1 A Mind For Mathematics
2 In the Beginning Is Number
3 Everybody Counts
4 What Is This Thing Called Mathematics?
5 Do Mathematicians Have Different Brains?
6 Born to Speak
7 The Brain That Grew and Learned to Talk
8 Out of Our Minds
9 Where Demons Lurk and Mathematicians Work
10 Roads Not Taken
Epilogue How to Sell Soap
Appendix The Hidden Structure of Everyday Language

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About the author (2000)

Keith Devlin is the Dean of the School of Social Science at St. Mary's College, Moraga, California, and a Senior Researcher at the Center for the Study of Language and Information at Stanford University. He is the author of 22 books, one interactive CD-ROM, and over 65 technical research papers in mathematics. His voice is heard regularly on National Public Radio, on such programs as "Weekend Edition," "Talk of the Nation," "Science Friday," "Sounds Like Science," and "To the Best of Our Knowledge." His previous books include Life by the Numbers, the companion to a PBS series that aired in April and May, 1998; Goodbye Descartes: The End of Logic; and The Language of Mathematics: Making the Invisible Visible.

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