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Mathematician's Delight (Dover Books on Mathematics)
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on August 10, 2003
W. W. Sawyer was one of the greatest teachers of mathematics within the past century. The continuing popularity (to the extent that books on math can be popular) of his other books -- *Prelude to Mathematics* (which deals with advanced math) and *Vision in Elementary Mathematics* (which deals with arithmetic and basic algebra) -- serve as evidence for the wonderful ability he had to make math seem useful and interesting to everyone from the math-phobic to the dedicated mathematician.
Contrary to some other reviews, Sawyer's prose was NOT dull or dry. We have to keep in mind the fact that *Mathematician's Delight* was written for an audience in the 1940's to 1950's Britain and Canada. Obviously, the style and tone won't be consistent with the way that we 21st century Americans are used to. But even giving him that benefit of the doubt, Sawyer's prose is always lively, entertaining, and full of insights into his chosen subject of mathematics as well as insight into why many people struggle with aspects of that subject.
I definitely agree with the positive aspects of the other reviews. This indeed is an excellent book to take you from the basics of algebra all the way up to and beyond calculus. I sincerely hope that someone brings this book back in print.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on July 28, 2013
Why read fiction when you can learn how to do something. That has been my philosophy since I started reading. While I've read my share of fiction, it is the instructional non-fiction books that have always gotten my attention and I have read innumerable volumes. The reason for this introduction is to impress upon you the weight of my next statement:

This is the best book I have ever read!

I am not an educator, nor am I a mathematician, but there is not a sentence in this book that hasn't found its way into my personal philosophy of learning and education. I first read this book when I was in college, not as part of a course, but to "read around the subject" to paraphrase W.W. Sawyer. This was over 20 years ago, and recently I was reading through this book again and was astonished at how much of his advice and ideas had become part of who I am.

Just some fragments of his ideas:

1.) First study books that contain material you know 90% of, and then learn the remaining 10%.
2.) Read around a subject
3.) To learn a language, start with little children's books in that language.
4.) To learn to draw, sit on a bus and draw everything you see.
5.) Learn by doing.
6.) Develop an interest in the subject you want to learn.

And there are countless others. These sound obvious, and I am certainly not doing him justice. Read for yourself and you will be amazed at how all of this is woven into an inspiring and easy to read book that, by the way, contains some discussion of mathematics! How many authors do you know that not only teach you their subject, but teach you how to learn any subject!

This is a book that should be read by every teacher and by every student.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on June 6, 2012
One of the best books on maths - ever. I first read it in 1966 and then, again, recently. It "explains" maths in the most simple, enjoyable and humorous way covering arithmetic, algebra, geometry, graphs, calculus, trig and, of course how to study this subject.
If you have ever had difficulty with maths - read this book.
If you teach maths then this approach should be your route map if true learning by your students is important to you.
An excellent book which has stood the test of time - first published in 1947!
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on September 17, 1998
This is a great book. Highly recommended by me to be read by everyone especially students who fear mathemtics. "So long as a subject seems dull, you can be sure that you are approcahing it form the wrong angle" - W.W.Sawyer
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 9, 2012
Written nearly 70 years ago, but reprinted many times since then (my used copy dates from 1995), this is a perfect book for those aged 15 to 85 who find Mathematics intimidating or downright incomprehensible. W.W.Sawyer starts with basic principles, and takes the reader by the hand and leads him/her through the world of maths, showing how really it is essentially a kind of shorthand which enables us to work out and understand how the world works. Algebra, geometry, trigonometry, calculus,it's all there. Fascinating and fun - makes up for all the years of lousy maths teaching endured by so many of us at school!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 15, 2013
...I didn't expect much in the way of miracles and epiphanies when I bought this book, but its wonderfully detailed, relaxed description on "Calculus of FInite Differences" - presented so clearly - makes this book well worth acquiring! W. W. Sawyer expertly worded that
section alone with apparent alacrity, and ever since, I've been grateful being able to comfortably turn a series of "answers," e.g., points on a parabolic graph, into the parabola's equation!
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on July 25, 2015
It's the second one I buy. Convoluted reasoning. I like Mr Sawyer , but he complicates the Math while thinking that he is making it easier.
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6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on March 17, 1998
It was worth reviewing just to find out about the basis of Euclid's work in the generalization of rules of thumb of carpentry. I've used this material over and over in teaching mathematics and physics.
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11 of 21 people found the following review helpful
W. W. Sawyer, Mathematician's Delight (Penguin, 1943)

I approached this with some trepidation, as when I picked it up recently, I discovered a makeshift bookmark (that had a date on it-- July of 1994) stuck at the beginning of chapter four. Had I started it and just forgotten, or had I given up thanks to the author's style?

The former, thankfully. While Sawyer may well have been a fine teacher-- and this book does present that side of him a number of times-- his prose is often dry as week-old bread. If you can get past the insomnia factor, however, his methods of explaining math were even able to help me (who failed calculus 101 twice) understand the uses of integrals and derivatives. Rather than trying to explain mathematics in a conventional manner, Sawyer attacks the problem for those of us who never grasped these things in class by taking what was then (and still is, to an extent) a revolutionary approach to explaining maths: tell the student what the problems will be used for, and offer concrete examples, BEFORE explaining the mechanics of the thing. It's beautiful. Too bad more math teachers haven't read it. They probably couldn't get past the prose. ***
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