Math for the Frightened: Facing Scary Symbols and Everything Else that Freaks You Out about Mathematics

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Prometheus Books, 2011 - Mathematics - 380 pages
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From the publisher. Mention the word mathematics and the reaction may range from despair and bewilderment to outright hostility. There's something about a language of symbols and equations that most people find intimidating. The result is that math and science books for the general public usually avoid the use of symbolic notation and readers never appreciate the true power and elegance of mathematics. This book uniquely takes the opposite approach. Mathematician Colin Pask gently introduces the reader to the main ideas of mathematics and painlessly demonstrates how they are expressed in terms of symbols. The author not only teaches the reader why symbols are used, and how and why equations are constructed, but also exactly what is achieved by doing that. No high-level mathematics is required for learning about the basic approaches in mathematics. Through simple yet intriguing examples in number theory, Pask generates confidence in thinking mathematically and reveals the pleasure of seeing how mathematical patterns evolve and are explored. Gradually the reader is guided through the development of mathematics, first in the area of numbers and algebra, but later in geometry where the symbolic and the visual approaches are combined. With this background established, Pask next shows exactly how mathematics is used in science and elsewhere. Examples are taken from four areas: dynamics in the everyday world; the theories used in atomic and sub-atomic physics; studies in population age structure and growth for social planning; and the imaging CAT scans so vital in modern medicine. In all cases mathematics is shown to be an essential tool. A chapter is also included that discusses the findings of cognitive science, which provide insights into why so many people experience anxieties about subjects like mathematics. If you've ever been curious about mathematics but afraid of its complexity, this book will help you overcome your fears and begin to appreciate the science that Einstein called "the poetry of logical ideas.".

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About the author (2011)

Colin Pask (Canberra, Australia) is an emeritus professor of mathematics and a visiting fellow and professor in the School of Physical, Environmental and Mathematical Sciences at the University of New South Wales in Canberra, Australia.

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