FIGURING: The Joy of Numbers by Shakuntala Devi

FIGURING: The Joy of Numbers

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The lore of large numbers (not to be confused with the law of large numbers) as well as the charms of the fundamental 0 to 9 have held endless fascination for Shakuntala Devi since she was three. She needed no incentive to play with additions and subtractions, number palindromes and puzzles. She wants you to enjoy numbers, too, even if you never got beyond fractions. So, with a few definitions and introductory remarks, she launches into tricks of the trade: how to do rapid calculations in your head or with only a few jottings on paper. Some are familiar, like finding a 15 percent tip by figuring 10 percent and adding half as much. Some depend on simple properties of binomials. But Devi doesn't burden her reader with abstract proofs. (Many of the ""tricks"" are the kind of exercises that more formal texts might leave for the student.) As opposed to the math anxiety books of Kogelman and Tobias (below), this one is for enthusiasts, or at least for those not horrified at the thought that computation can be recreation. Devi concludes with a chapter on puzzles, often clad in Indian garb (the Maharaja and the elephants; the Tower of Brahma). Many have stood the test of time--the golden oldies of math, one might say. It's pleasant to report that a book by a woman--in a field so often eschewed by women--is such a genial celebration of numbers, their esthetic delights and practical virtues. It is a book for the curious, the undaunted, and those innocents not yet brainwashed into believing math is beyond the pale.

Pub Date: Sept. 6th, 1978
Publisher: Harper & Row