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47 Reviews
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198 of 205 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book. Belongs on Your Bookshelf.
Courant's 500-page text is not entirely suitable for the layman. Its target audience includes those who enjoy reading and studying mathematics and have a good background through precalculus or higher. "What is Mathematics?" is a mathematics book, not a book about mathematics.

"What is Mathematics?" is not a new book. It was first published by Oxford University...
Published on August 3, 2003 by Michael Wischmeyer

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86 of 105 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars typos galore, terrible layout
The book is littered with mangled formulas, mostly due to the fact the minus sign is missing from most formulas. This is completely unacceptable in any math book, but particularly so in a book aimed at beginners, who will probably feel bewildered by the huge amount of nonsensical formulas.

Adding insult to injury, the poor layout of Kindle edition makes the...
Published on June 1, 2010 by Tiago Henriques


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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Now I Get It - A Concise Overview, January 8, 2007
This review is from: What Is Mathematics? An Elementary Approach to Ideas and Methods (Paperback)
This book has been around now for a few years to say the least. It is intriguing and captivating in its concise approach to explain and answer the question of just what Mathematics is. If you have a hankering to understand what Mathematics does or perhaps why it even exists, this book is pretty informative and interesting reading. One feature I liked about it is its use of many examples to propel the thought process into that zone of understanding within us. When you are in the zone many basic concepts used in both rudimentary and complex problems become apparent frequently leading one to say "Now I get it."
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding writing, August 10, 2007
This review is from: What Is Mathematics? An Elementary Approach to Ideas and Methods (Paperback)
Whether or not you are a mathematician or if it is just a hobby, this book is fantastic!!! You can open it up to any page and just begin reading...there is no need to start beginning to end. A great work to read as time allows!!!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars enlightenment !, June 10, 2007
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This review is from: What Is Mathematics? An Elementary Approach to Ideas and Methods (Paperback)
We all have done math and have had math classes,but this book will open your eyes as to what math really is.It is a language that can show you the beauty of the world.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What is "What is Mathematics"???, October 12, 2008
This review is from: What Is Mathematics? An Elementary Approach to Ideas and Methods (Paperback)
It's a lucid presentation of the ideas that govern the different domains of Mathematics. Clear but not too easy, it needs commitment by the reader in order to understand its essence to the full. Courant (as his mentor Hilbert) shows how important and useful it is to demystify the cumbersome technicalities that often dominate the subject.
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You'll also learn lots of solid mathematics., July 24, 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: What Is Mathematics? An Elementary Approach to Ideas and Methods (Paperback)
So Einstein thought this book "easily understandable" ? Well, if you are a beginner at calculus you will not find it "easily understandable", for that would mean you didn't learn a single new thing! Calculus is perhaps the most profound and far-reaching discovery of the millenium, and is certainly not trivial. However, this magical book is the best possible introduction. It is written so that your perplexities will always be accompanied by so beautiful results or promises of results, that you will be more than ready to do the necessary efforts. These come, for instance, in the form of exercises and in the details of the demonstrations, which are all there. There is no cheating. Well, the book is not only about calculus. There are many previous chapters on theory of numbers, geometry, algebra, topology. But I think it culminates with calculus, and the preceding chapters serve as steps of a staircase leading to it. The new edition has the collaboratio! n of Ian Stewart, an inspired writer.
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18 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars classic, August 3, 2001
This review is from: What Is Mathematics? An Elementary Approach to Ideas and Methods (Paperback)
I give this book 5 stars because it is a classic. I believe, however, that it is too sketchy to be useful for the beginner as it is advertised. For chapter 1, for example, on number theory, I recommend Hardy's "Introduction to the Theory of Numbers." For the second chapter, on the number systems, I recommend a book like Birkhoff and MacLane's "Modern Algebra." It's difficult to write a survey of mathematics textbook without being sketchy and Courant isn't up to the task. In addition, the bibliography at the end of the book is fairly outdated, although the two books I mentioned above are included there. I also wish Courant would have provided more information on the evolution of mathematical concepts and ideas. This is something Kline does in his "History of Mathematical Thought." I find this information vital in answering the question "what is mathematics?" If you really want to get a good idea of what mathematics is you should start with a general history of mathematics like Kline's book and quickly move on to Greek mathematics. Even a small understanding of Euclid's axiomatic method will help you understand modern day mathematics and why mathemticians do what they do the way they do it. Having said that, I plan on making more use of Courant's book later on in my mathematics career.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good book for a math amateur, July 15, 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: What Is Mathematics? An Elementary Approach to Ideas and Methods (Paperback)
I am a college student, majoring in math, but not very far along in my major sequence. I found that this book gave me an understandable perspective on what might lie ahead in my studies. I highly recommend this book for anyone who thinks they might be interested in learning more about Mathematics! It inspired me!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A work of art, June 26, 2011
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This review is from: What Is Mathematics? An Elementary Approach to Ideas and Methods (Paperback)
I can't do this book justice, as many reviewers before me have. As an undergrad who's majoring in math, this book helps to illuminate so many fields of mathematics that I had not learned in school. From basic number theory to introductory calculus, this is the perfect companion for anyone who has an understanding of the beauty and power that numbers hold. Five stars, easy.
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34 of 50 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Invisible Second Author, September 1, 2005
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This review is from: What Is Mathematics? An Elementary Approach to Ideas and Methods (Paperback)
The purpose of this review is to bring your attention to the second author of this timeless classic. Apparently most reviewers give all the credit to the first author, Richard Courant. Allow me to bring the second author, Herbert Robbins, to your attention. Google his name and you will find that Herbert Robbins is one of the most prolific and creative statisticians ever existed. Robbins studied mathematics at Harvard in the 1930s. At the time he worked with Courant on this book, he was a young rising star in mathematics/statistics. I have every reason to believe that Robbins has done more to this book than we give him credit for. We may never know the exact magnitude of Robbins's contribution to this book, but a complete ignorance of him is certainly unjust.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Requires Stamina To Complete, But Worth It, March 19, 2014
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My first attempt to read this book was during my undergraduate studies. Twenty years later, I am now discarding my college textbooks and "What Is Mathematics" has resurfaced. When the student is ready, the master will appear. It's a great book and for certain people worth the journey. Yes, a little dated but I think that adds to the charm.
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What Is Mathematics? An Elementary Approach to Ideas and Methods
What Is Mathematics? An Elementary Approach to Ideas and Methods by Herbert Robbins (Paperback - July 18, 1996)
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