Mathematics for Human Flourishing

Mathematics for Human Flourishing


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An inclusive vision of mathematics—its beauty, its humanity, and its power to build virtues that help us all flourish
For mathematician Francis Su, a society without mathematical affection is like a city without concerts, parks, or museums. To miss out on mathematics is to live without experiencing some of humanity’s most beautiful ideas.  
In this profound book, written for a wide audience but especially for those disenchanted by their past experiences, an award‑winning mathematician and educator weaves parables, puzzles, and personal reflections to show how mathematics meets basic human desires—such as for play, beauty, freedom, justice, and love—and cultivates virtues essential for human flourishing. These desires and virtues, and the stories told here, reveal how mathematics is intimately tied to being human. Some lessons emerge from those who have struggled, including philosopher Simone Weil, whose own mathematical contributions were overshadowed by her brother’s, and Christopher Jackson, who discovered mathematics as an inmate in a federal prison. Christopher’s letters to the author appear throughout the book and show how this intellectual pursuit can—and must—be open to all.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780300237139
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication date: 01/07/2020
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 126,939
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Francis Su is the Benediktsson‑Karwa Professor of Mathematics at Harvey Mudd College and the past president of the Mathematical Association of America. In 2013, he received the Haimo Award, a nationwide teaching prize for college math faculty, and in 2018 he won the Halmos-Ford writing award for the highly-acclaimed speech on which this book is based. His work has been featured in Quanta Magazine, Wired, and the New York Times.

Table of Contents

Preface ix

1 Flourishing 1

2 Exploration 17

3 Meaning 34

4 Play 48

5 Beauty 67

6 Permanence 88

7 Truth 101

8 Struggle 115

9 Power 128

10 Justice 147

11 Freedom 165

22 Community 186

13 Love 201

Epilogue 216

Acknowledgments 225

Desires & virtues 229

For reflection: questions for further discussion 233

Hints & solutions to puzzles 239

Notes 247

Index 263

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