Title: It All Adds Up (The story of People and Mathematics)
Author: Mickael Launay
I’m going to tell you from the start that this is about mathematics. If that scares you off, rather face that monster today and see mathematics how it evolved to what we know it be today.
In fact, after finishing off the book I thought that mathematics taught in school should get a face-lift, by not just teaching how something is done, but include critical thinking and have them ask why is something done that way, or why is it done. Because when you understand how it came to be, rather than only how it works, you understand the background and maybe even appreciate it more.
I actually re-read this book now for the first time, but didn’t write a post before, because I actually thought I had done one already. Just when I scrolled through my list of posted works I noticed it was absent quite by chance. So now I’m making up for past mistakes and getting back into it.
The book is written by a mathematics Phd from what I read in the book, and is about the author walking through the museum (for some of the historical mathematical context) on different occasions and then telling us the historical background and how mathematics came into the picture in that time.
Something as simple as counting the number of sheep was recorded by the Sumerians in Mesopotamia on clay tablets with a picture of the sheep and a figure to represent a quantity. Today known as tokens…… Hmmm, where have we heard that in the modern day before? Video games!
Other topics include friezes, geometry and then we start heading to the first celebrities of mathematics, Thales, Pythogoras and Archimedes. The Greeks were the first to present their works in the form of theorems, whose aim was to present an idea, give proof and then conclude. These would then be attributed as their works, and contributions to the science.
The works of authors include:
Pythagoras’ theorem 5square = 4square + 3square (z2 = x2 + y2)
Archimedes method 3,14 (pie) sequence
Bhaskara I 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 (known as Arabic numbers, but originated in India)
Brahmagupta Description of zero and negative numbers
Arab mathematicians trigonometry (study of the measurement of triangles – i.e. cos, sin, tan)
Muhammad al-Khwarizmi algebra (methods that make it possible to solve mathematical equations)
Leonardo Fibonacci Fibonacci sequence (value is equal to the sum of the two values before it)
Renaissance era Invention of the operations ‘+’, ‘-‘, ‘x’ and ‘./.’
Rene Descartes a, b, c should represent known quantities in equations, whilst x, y, and z should denote unknown quantities
Isaac Newton F = G * (m1*m2 /d square)
Blaise Pascal Probability theory
And so many more…..
If you look at the list above you will note that the mathematics we have today pulls its roots from different ages, and from thinkers of different nations.
The author takes you on a different mathematical trip than you would find on a field trip, because he lists most of the people’s contributions to the science, and how the theorem had been developed, which I thought was also quite interesting, than just learning how to use the method to a given set of facts.
Now, you might not be hyped about the idea about reading about mathematics. However, this is quite a different mathematics text than others you would have encountered. And, the author writes it very well to the audience by not getting lost with jargon that our professors like to talk in when their having a good day at work with like-educated fellows.
Quite a different text to what I usually read. Good approach from the author to follow the historic timeline and then gradually introduce the creator of the theorem, and its application in their daily lives. I rate this as a 4.5/5
Give it a try.