The Best Writing on Mathematics 2010

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Overview

This anthology brings together the year's finest writing on mathematics from around the world. Featuring promising new voices alongside some of the foremost names in mathematics, The Best Writing on Mathematics makes available to a wide audience many articles not easily found anywhere else--and you don't need to be a mathematician to enjoy them. These writings offer surprising insights into the nature, meaning, and practice of mathematics today. They delve into the history, philosophy, teaching, and everyday ...

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Overview

This anthology brings together the year's finest writing on mathematics from around the world. Featuring promising new voices alongside some of the foremost names in mathematics, The Best Writing on Mathematics makes available to a wide audience many articles not easily found anywhere else--and you don't need to be a mathematician to enjoy them. These writings offer surprising insights into the nature, meaning, and practice of mathematics today. They delve into the history, philosophy, teaching, and everyday occurrences of math, and take readers behind the scenes of today's hottest mathematical debates. Here readers will discover why Freeman Dyson thinks some mathematicians are birds while others are frogs; why Keith Devlin believes there's more to mathematics than proof; what Nick Paumgarten has to say about the timing patterns of New York City's traffic lights (and why jaywalking is the most mathematically efficient way to cross Sixty-sixth Street); what Samuel Arbesman can tell us about the epidemiology of the undead in zombie flicks; and much, much more.

In addition to presenting the year's most memorable writing on mathematics, this must-have anthology also includes a foreword by esteemed mathematician William Thurston and an informative introduction by Mircea Pitici. This book belongs on the shelf of anyone interested in where math has taken us--and where it's headed.

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Editorial Reviews

Wild About Math!
Imagine for a moment that you had a friend who was a voracious reader of Math journals and periodicals. And, imagine that this friend had a knack for finding articles that were of interest to mathematicians and non-mathematicians alike by well-known writers and by new talent. Would you be interested in reading a few dozen of these articles? Mircea Pitici, editor of The Best Writing on Mathematics 2010 is such a friend, even if you've never met him. . . . A nice set of stimulating articles that appeal to a wide audience.
— Sol Lederman
LMS Newsletter
As a mathematician engrossed in my own area . . . I've been delighted to have this book in my house. One inevitably will not agree with every choice of work for inclusion, but it would be a dull book if it simply presented us with what we like. What is important is that it is varied and balanced, and contains the odd surprise.
— Charles Eaton
Irish Math Society Bulletin
Mircea Pitici has succeeded in putting together a wonderful and varied bouquet of texts related to mathematics. . . . I highly recommend this book to everyone with an interest in mathematics, whether they are professional mathematician, graduate or undergraduate students, teachers, or enthusiastic amateurs.
— Stephen Buckley
Mathematics Today
I would highly recommend this book as a good read to anyone with an interest in mathematics. Whether a professional mathematician, university or sixth form student, teacher, or recreational mathematician, there will be something there for you.
— Steve Humble
Australian Math Society Gazette
I recommend this book to Gazette readers as enjoyable bedside reading.
— Phill Schultz
Wild About Math! - Sol Lederman
Imagine for a moment that you had a friend who was a voracious reader of Math journals and periodicals. And, imagine that this friend had a knack for finding articles that were of interest to mathematicians and non-mathematicians alike by well-known writers and by new talent. Would you be interested in reading a few dozen of these articles? Mircea Pitici, editor of The Best Writing on Mathematics 2010 is such a friend, even if you've never met him. . . . A nice set of stimulating articles that appeal to a wide audience.
LMS Newsletter - Charles Eaton
As a mathematician engrossed in my own area . . . I've been delighted to have this book in my house. One inevitably will not agree with every choice of work for inclusion, but it would be a dull book if it simply presented us with what we like. What is important is that it is varied and balanced, and contains the odd surprise.
Irish Math Society Bulletin - Stephen Buckley
Mircea Pitici has succeeded in putting together a wonderful and varied bouquet of texts related to mathematics. . . . I highly recommend this book to everyone with an interest in mathematics, whether they are professional mathematician, graduate or undergraduate students, teachers, or enthusiastic amateurs.
Mathematics Today - Steve Humble
I would highly recommend this book as a good read to anyone with an interest in mathematics. Whether a professional mathematician, university or sixth form student, teacher, or recreational mathematician, there will be something there for you.
Australian Math Society Gazette - Phill Schultz
I recommend this book to Gazette readers as enjoyable bedside reading.
From the Publisher

"Pitici . . . has put together a mathematics anthology gleaned from articles published in 2009 in a range of popular and scholarly sources. The collection is quite international in scope. . . . This collection is more than just a set of reprints; the assembly from diverse and, in some cases, not easily accessible publications and the arrangement add value to this work."--Library Journal

"Imagine for a moment that you had a friend who was a voracious reader of Math journals and periodicals. And, imagine that this friend had a knack for finding articles that were of interest to mathematicians and non-mathematicians alike by well-known writers and by new talent. Would you be interested in reading a few dozen of these articles? Mircea Pitici, editor of The Best Writing on Mathematics 2010 is such a friend, even if you've never met him. . . . A nice set of stimulating articles that appeal to a wide audience."--Sol Lederman, Wild About Math!

"As a mathematician engrossed in my own area . . . I've been delighted to have this book in my house. One inevitably will not agree with every choice of work for inclusion, but it would be a dull book if it simply presented us with what we like. What is important is that it is varied and balanced, and contains the odd surprise."--Charles Eaton, LMS Newsletter

"Mircea Pitici has succeeded in putting together a wonderful and varied bouquet of texts related to mathematics. . . . I highly recommend this book to everyone with an interest in mathematics, whether they are professional mathematician, graduate or undergraduate students, teachers, or enthusiastic amateurs."--Stephen Buckley, Irish Math Society Bulletin

"I would highly recommend this book as a good read to anyone with an interest in mathematics. Whether a professional mathematician, university or sixth form student, teacher, or recreational mathematician, there will be something there for you."--Steve Humble, Mathematics Today

"I recommend this book to Gazette readers as enjoyable bedside reading."--Phill Schultz, Australian Math Society Gazette

Library Journal
Pitici, a Cornell University Ph.D. candidate in mathematics education, has put together a mathematics anthology gleaned from articles published in 2009 in a range of popular and scholarly sources. The collection is quite international in scope—in his introduction, Pitici writes that he deliberately sought publications that are not widely distributed. This collection is more than just a set of reprints; the assembly from diverse and, in some cases, not easily accessible publications and the arrangement add value to this work. Pitici groups articles on mathematics education, mathematicians, mathematics in the media, history, applications, and a general assortment. The tenor of the articles varies, but most are directed at motivated readers, typically with a vested interest in the subject but not necessarily with expertise. Like most anthologies, some articles are better than others. VERDICT A good read overall, this is a natural choice for academic and large public collections and math lovers.—Margaret Dominy, Drexel Univ., Philadelphia
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691148410
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 1/2/2011
  • Series: Best Writing on Mathematics Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 440
  • Sales rank: 786,175
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author


Mircea Pitici is a PhD candidate in mathematics education at Cornell University. He teaches mathematics courses and writing seminars at Cornell and Ithaca College.
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Table of Contents

Foreword by William P. Thurston xi
Introduction by Mircea Pitici xv

Mathematics Alive
The Role of the Untrue in Mathematics by Chandler Davis 3
Desperately Seeking Mathematical Proof by Melvyn B. Nathanson 13
An Enduring Error by Branko Grunbaum 18
What Is Experimental Mathematics? By Keith Devlin 32
What Is Information-Based Complexity? By Henryk Woz´niakowski 37
What Is Financial Mathematics? By Tim Johnson 43
If Mathematics Is a Language, How Do You Swear in It? By David Wagner 47

Mathematicians and the Practice of Mathematics
Birds and Frogs by Freeman Dyson 57
Mathematics Is Not a Game But . . . by Robert Thomas 79
Massively Collaborative Mathematics by Timothy Gowers and Michael Nielsen 89
Bridging the Two Cultures: Paul Valery by Philip J. Davis 94
A Hidden Praise of Mathematics by Alicia Dickenstein 99

Mathematics and Its Applications
Mathematics and the Internet: A Source of Enormous Confusion and Great Potential by Walter Willinger, David L. Alderson, and John C. Doyle 109
The Higher Arithmetic: How to Count to a Zillion without Falling Off the End of the Number Line by Brian Hayes 134
Knowing When to Stop: How to Gamble If You Must--The Mathematics of Optimal Stopping by Theodore P. Hill 145
Homology: An Idea Whose Time Has Come by Barry A. Cipra 158

Mathematics Education
Adolescent Learning and Secondary Mathematics by Anne Watson 163
Accommodations of Learning Disabilities in Mathematics Courses by Kathleen Ambruso Acker, Mary W. Gray, and Behzad Jalali 175
Audience,Style and Criticism by David Pimm and Nathalie Sinclair 194
Aesthetics as a Liberating Force in Mathematics Education? By Nathalie Sinclair 206
Mathematics Textbooks and Their Potential Role in Supporting Misconceptions by Ann Kajander and Miroslav Lovric 236
Exploring Curvature with Paper Models by Howard T. Iseri 247
Intuitive vs Analytical Thinking: Four Perspectives by Uri Leron and Orit Hazzan 260

History and Philosophy of Mathematics
Why Did Lagrange "Prove" the Parallel Postulate? By Judith V. Grabiner 283
Kronecker's Algorithmic Mathematics by Harold M. Edwards 303
Indiscrete Variations on Gian-Carlo Rota's Themes by Carlo Cellucci 311
Circle Packing: A Personal Reminiscence by Philip L. Bowers 330
Applying Inconsistent Mathematics by Mark Colyvan 346
Why Do We Believe Theorems? By Andrzej Pelc 358

Mathematics in the Media
Mathematicians Solve 45-Year-Old Kervaire Invariant Puzzle by Erica Klarreich 373
Darwin: The Reluctant Mathematician by Julie Rehmeyer 377
Loves Me, Loves Me Not (Do the Math) by Steven Strogatz 380
The Mysterious Equilibrium of Zombies and Other Things Mathematicians See at the Movies by Samuel Arbesman 383
Strength in Numbers: On Mathematics and Musical Rhythm by Vijay Iyer 387
Math-hattan by Nick Paumgarten 391

Contributors 395
Acknowledgments 403
Credits 405

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