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
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This work about maths and language is from the NPR commentator Keith Devlin. Why is maths so hard? And why, despite this difficulty, are some people so good at it? If there is 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 theory of language development - that language evolved in two stages, and its main purpose was not communication. Devlin goes on 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 maths 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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The math gene: how mathematical thinking evolved and why numbers are like gossip

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This book is not about mathematics or genetics or why some people are good at math and others are not. Rather, Devlin (Goodbye, Descartes) asks and attempts to answer the question, "How and why did ... Read full review

Contents

1 A Mind For Mathematics
1
2 In the Beginning Is Number
15
3 Everybody Counts
39
4 What Is This Thing Called Mathematics?
71
5 Do Mathematicians Have Different Brains?
111
6 Born to Speak
145
7 The Brain That Grew and Learned to Talk
169
8 Out of Our Minds
195
9 Where Demons Lurk and Mathematicians Work
249
10 Roads Not Taken
283
Epilogue How to Sell Soap
293
Appendix The Hidden Structure of Everyday Language
297
References
309
Index
317
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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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