Mathematics for Human Flourishing

Front Cover
Yale University Press, Jan 7, 2020 - Mathematics - 256 pages
Winner of the Mathematics Association of America's 2021 Euler Book Prize, this is an inclusive vision of mathematics—its beauty, its humanity, and its power to build virtues that help us all flourish“This is perhaps the most important mathematics book of our time. Francis Su shows mathematics is an experience of the mind and, most important, of the heart.”—James Tanton, Global Math Project"A good book is an entertaining read. A great book holds up a mirror that allows us to more clearly see ourselves and the world we live in. Francis Su’s Mathematics for Human Flourishing is both a good book and a great book."—MAA Reviews
For mathematician Francis Su, a society without mathematical affection is like a city without concerts, parks, or museums. To miss out on mathematics is to live without experiencing some of humanity’s most beautiful ideas.In this profound book, written for a wide audience but especially for those disenchanted by their past experiences, an award‑winning mathematician and educator weaves parables, puzzles, and personal reflections to show how mathematics meets basic human desires—such as for play, beauty, freedom, justice, and love—and cultivates virtues essential for human flourishing. These desires and virtues, and the stories told here, reveal how mathematics is intimately tied to being human. Some lessons emerge from those who have struggled, including philosopher Simone Weil, whose own mathematical contributions were overshadowed by her brother’s, and Christopher Jackson, who discovered mathematics as an inmate in a federal prison. Christopher’s letters to the author appear throughout the book and show how this intellectual pursuit can—and must—be open to all.
 

Contents

1 flourishing
1
2 exploration
17
3 meaning
34
4 play
48
5 beauty
67
6 permanence
88
7 truth
101
8 struggle
115
12 community
186
13 love
201
epilogue
216
acknowledgments
225
desires vir tues
229
questions for further discussion
233
hints solutions to puzzles
239
notes
247

9 power
128
10 justice
147
11 freedom
165

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About the author (2020)

Francis Su is the Benediktsson†‘Karwa Professor of Mathematics at Harvey Mudd College, an award†‘winning math educator, and the past president of the Mathematical Association of America. His work has been featured in Quanta Magazine, Wired, and the New York Times.

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