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The Calculus of Friendship is the story of an extraordinary connection between a teacher and a student, as chronicled through more than thirty years of letters between them. What makes their relationship unique is that it is based almost entirely on a shared love of calculus. For them, calculus is more than a branch of mathematics; it is a game they love playing together, a constant when all else is in flux. The teacher goes from the prime of his career to retirement, competes in whitewater kayaking at the ...
The Calculus of Friendship is the story of an extraordinary connection between a teacher and a student, as chronicled through more than thirty years of letters between them. What makes their relationship unique is that it is based almost entirely on a shared love of calculus. For them, calculus is more than a branch of mathematics; it is a game they love playing together, a constant when all else is in flux. The teacher goes from the prime of his career to retirement, competes in whitewater kayaking at the international level, and loses a son. The student matures from high school math whiz to Ivy League professor, suffers the sudden death of a parent, and blunders into a marriage destined to fail. Yet through it all they take refuge in the haven of calculus—until a day comes when calculus is no longer enough.
Like calculus itself, The Calculus of Friendship is an exploration of change. It's about the transformation that takes place in a student's heart, as he and his teacher reverse roles, as they age, as they are buffeted by life itself. Written by a renowned teacher and communicator of mathematics, The Calculus of Friendship is warm, intimate, and deeply moving. The most inspiring ideas of calculus, differential equations, and chaos theory are explained through metaphors, images, and anecdotes in a way that all readers will find beautiful, and even poignant. Math enthusiasts, from high school students to professionals, will delight in the offbeat problems and lucid explanations in the letters.
For anyone whose life has been changed by a mentor, The Calculus of Friendship will be an unforgettable journey.
"The spring of his freshman year in college, Strogatz began to exchange letters with his high school calculus teacher, Don Joffray. At some point, their amiable correspondence about math problems led to a true friendship. In The Calculus of Friendship, Strogatz weaves their letters into reflections on the philosophical similarities between calculus and human relationships and portrays a friendship firmly founded on a love of dreaming up and solving calculus problems . . . . One can also feel the personality and humor of these pen pals emerging through their symbol-sprinkled sentences."—Science
"Part biography, part autobiography and part off-the-beaten-path guide to calculus, this quick read details 30 years of correspondence between Strogatz and Joffray. Calculus, Isaac Newton's ingenious invention for modeling change mathematically, serves as both text and subtext for the letters that pass between Strogatz and Joff. Focusing almost exclusively on questions of mathematics, these brief notes frame the unlikely friendship of a teacher and his star student. With the precision of an award-winning mathematician and the clarity of a best-selling science author, Strogatz leads us on an excursion through some of the lesser-known mathematical sights—the ones usually reserved for the 'members only' tour. . . . The mathematics covered in these letters is impressive for such a short volume."—American Scientist
"There is no better English-language explicator of complex quantitative concepts than Steven Strogatz. His work is a model for how mathematics needs to be popularized."—Michael Schrage, Harvard Business Review
"This story will draw in both the novice and the veteran. Teachers of mathematics will appreciate the long-term effect their teaching can have on students. The included mathematics can be related to both high school and undergraduate calculus sequences to demonstrate some interesting, thought-provoking, and 'big picture' connections to these courses."—Mathematics Teacher
"[A] beautiful book, bound to become a classic in the mathematical literature. . . . Like Hardy's A Mathematician's Apology, you don not have to know any mathematics whatsoever to read this book. It is a candid and all-too-human story told with brutal honesty, warts and all, sharing with the reader the elation and sincere regrets bound up in the relationship—but in the end, the victories, too. With some beautiful mathematics throughout!"—Lawrence S. Braden, Notices of the American Mathematical Society
"You wouldn't guess it from the title, but The Calculus of Friendship is a genuine tearjerker. I defy anyone to follow the correspondence between mathematician Steven Strogatz and his high school teacher Don Joffray (affectionately nicknamed 'Joff') without getting just a little lachrymose. If you don't, check to see if there is a heart in your chest. If there is, ensure that it's not just a cold slab of stone."—Bookslut
"The story of the correspondence between these two men is at once charming and subtly powerful. Strogatz writes directly and honestly, telling the story of a slow-growing friendship that was at once somewhat stilted and yet deep and sustaining. The immediacy and intimacy of Strogatz's writing transform the pleasures and tragedies of normal life into the elements of a compelling narrative, and because the book works so well on this human level, it also very effective in presenting some important lessons about education and about mathematics."—Mathrecreation blog
Continuity (1974-75) 1
Pursuit (1976) 8
Relativity (1977) 13
Irrationality (1978-79) 23
Shifts (1980-89) 34
Proof on a Place Mat (March 1989) 42
The Monk and the Mountain (1989-90) 71
Randomness (1990-91) 84
Infinity and Limits (1991) 94
Chaos (1992-95) 107
Celebration (1996-99) 115
The Path of Quickest Descent (2000-2003) 118
Bifurcation (2004) 128
Hero's Formula (2005-Present) 140
Further Reading 157
Photography Credits 163
Index of Math Problems 165
A very compelling tale of a master teacher and a former student using their correspondence over multiple decades. Thoughtfully shows the reciprocal impact that both students and teachers can have on one another over a lifetime of relationship and friendship. The story is moving, relevant, and a candid reflection on two extraordinary lives intertwined. The Math is fairly complex for the average reader, but the story remains compelling and useful even for those who skim through the Mathematics sections. For those who enjoy upper level Mathematics, the brief Math interludes are an added treat. A real pleasure to read!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 25, 2010
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Posted April 13, 2013
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