BEYOND NUMERACY

THE RUMINATIONS OF A NUMBERS MAN

Maybe there is a royal road to mathematics, after all. If so, Paulos is motoring on it in the driver's seat with this wide- ranging follow-up to his best-selling Innumeracy (1988). In the course of 320 pages, Paulos introduces the reader to mathematics ancient and modern: from Euclid to chaos, pi to probability theory, the Fibonacci series to fractals. And all in truly short-takes (one or two pages per entry), which, one discovers, are presented in alphabetical order. This makes it easy to use the book as a reference while calming the mathematically anxious who might fear taking longer or deeper plunges into any subject. Yet Paulos does not trivialize. His clearly stated objective is to right the wrongs that drill, formulas, and endless exercises have wrought in high-school classrooms. Mathematics is a language with structure and logic, elegance and beauty. Its interpreters can be purists who deplore finding any use for math or practical-minded thinkers who apply its tools and techniques to physics and engineering. Bridging the two are those mathematical excursions into number theory, set theory, or non-Euclidean geometry that turn out to be models of the natural world-of the way flowers grow, quarks interact, or how the universe is shaped. Paulos tells it all like the gifted teacher he is, combining the mathematical lore with asides on culture and personalities. Galois died at age 21 in a duel over a prostitute; Gîdel died of malnutrition occasioned by ``personality disturbances.'' And so on and on in what one would like to see become an infinite series.

Pub Date: April 28, 1991

ISBN: 0-394-58640-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1991

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

Did you like this book?

Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

SEVERAL SHORT SENTENCES ABOUT WRITING

New York Times columnist and editorial board member delivers a slim book for aspiring writers, offering saws and sense, wisdom and waggery, biases and biting sarcasm.

Klinkenborg (Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile, 2006), who’s taught for decades, endeavors to keep things simple in his prose, and he urges other writers to do the same. (Note: He despises abuses of the word as, as he continually reminds readers.) In the early sections, the author ignores traditional paragraphing so that the text resembles a long free-verse poem. He urges readers to use short, clear sentences and to make sure each one is healthy before moving on; notes that it’s acceptable to start sentences with and and but; sees benefits in diagramming sentences; stresses that all writing is revision; periodically blasts the formulaic writing that many (most?) students learn in school; argues that knowing where you’re headed before you begin might be good for a vacation, but not for a piece of writing; and believes that writers must trust readers more, and trust themselves. Most of Klinkenborg’s advice is neither radical nor especially profound (“Turn to the poets. / Learn from them”), and the text suffers from a corrosive fallacy: that if his strategies work for him they will work for all. The final fifth of the text includes some passages from writers he admires (McPhee, Oates, Cheever) and some of his students’ awkward sentences, which he treats analytically but sometimes with a surprising sarcasm that veers near meanness. He includes examples of students’ dangling modifiers, malapropisms, errors of pronoun agreement, wordiness and other mistakes.

Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-26634-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more