The Math Gene: How Mathematical Thinking Evolved and Why Numbers Are Like Gossipby Keith Devlin
Why is math so hard? And why, despite this difficulty, are some people so good at it? If there’s some inborn capacity for mathematical thinkingwhich there must be, otherwise no one could do it why can’t we all do it well? Keith Devlin has answers to all these difficult questions, and in giving them shows us how mathematical ability evolved,
Why is math so hard? And why, despite this difficulty, are some people so good at it? If there’s some inborn capacity for mathematical thinkingwhich there must be, otherwise no one could do it why can’t we all do it well? Keith Devlin has answers to all these difficult questions, and in giving them shows us how mathematical ability evolved, why it’s a part of language ability, and how we can make better use of this innate talent.He also offers a breathtakingly new theory of language developmentthat language evolved in two stages, and its main purpose was not communicationto show that the ability to think mathematically arose out of the same symbol-manipulating ability that was so crucial to the emergence of true language. Why, then, can’t we do math as well as we can speak? The answer, says Devlin, is that we can and dowe just don’t recognize when we’re using mathematical reasoning.
- Basic Books
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- First Paperback Edition
- Sales rank:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.32(w) x 8.02(h) x 0.90(d)
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Meet the Author
Keith Devlin is the Dean of the School of Social Science at St. Mary's College, Moraga, California, and a Senior Researcher at the Center for the Study of Language and Information at Stanford University. He is the author of 22 books, one interactive CD-ROM, and over 65 technical research papers in mathematics. His voice is heard regularly on National Public Radio, on such programs as "Weekend Edition," "Talk of the Nation," "Science Friday," "Sounds Like Science," and "To the Best of Our Knowledge." His previous books include Life by the Numbers, the companion to a PBS series that aired in April and May, 1998; Goodbye Descartes: The End of Logic; and The Language of Mathematics: Making the Invisible Visible.
- Palo Alto, California
- Date of Birth:
- March 16, 1947
- Place of Birth:
- Hull, England
- B.S., King's College, London, 1968; Ph.D., University of Bristol, 1971
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Devlin presents an interesting, well-thought out, and insightful hypothesis about mathematical thinking. Although I would argue with some of the details, there is much to be appreciated in his presentation. I think the hypothesis should be reformulated and investigated by the appropriate disciplines. I was particularly captured by his suggestion that mathematics is like gossip -- and I can agree. This image, this similarity takes mathematical thinking and numbers out of the realm of cold, hard, distant things and makes them approachable friends. I find this idea quite freeing. Recommended for those interested in brain evolution,thinking, mathematics, and for those who think they can't do mathematics -- it's just gossip.
I bought this book because it was to discuss why some people have a harder time doing math than others. Why do mathematicians find math so easy while the rest of us seem to struggle? While the book doesn't discuss much about an actual math 'gene' it does discuss evolutionary ideas about how humans developed a more complex ability to do mathematics than other species. While some of the reasoning may be pure conjecture, the ideas presented are thoroughly fascinating and well worth the read. Devlin also refers to the development of mathematical ability in children which is equally interesting for parents of young children.