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Measurement Hardcover – August 20, 2012

ISBN-13: 978-0674057555 ISBN-10: 0674057554

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Measurement + A Mathematician's Lament: How School Cheats Us Out of Our Most Fascinating and Imaginative Art Form + Introduction to Mathematical Thinking
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press (August 20, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674057554
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674057555
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.7 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #423,352 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

The book is a love song and a philosophical manifesto about the pleasures and frustrations, but mainly the pleasures, of doing math. (Steven Strogatz, New York Times contributor and author of The Joy of X (forthcoming))

No matter what mathematical education you had, or didn't have, you will be delighted by this enticing book if you take up Paul Lockhart's invitation to engage in the mathematical sensibility that radiates from its pages, and try your own hand—not only at answering, but even more fruitfully, at formulating questions as you explore the world of mathematics. (Barry Mazur, author of Imagining Numbers (Particularly the Square Root of Minus Fifteen))

Lockhart presents math as an art and argues that just as there is no systematic way to create beautiful and meaningful art, there is also no method for producing beautiful and meaningful mathematical arguments. Doing mathematics, according to Lockhart, is to make a discovery (by, say, physical objects like string or rubber bands) and then to explain it in the simplest and most elegant way possible. Using illustrations of various shapes and mathematical formulas, he leads readers through several problems step by step, encouraging them to collaborate with others in working through the problem. Measuring, for example, is relative because it involves comparing the object being measured to another object. Measurement is only one of the many rivers in the "vast, ever-expanding jungle" of mathematics, which for Lockhart satisfies our need to find patterns as well as our curiosity...His playful and ingenious approach not only takes the fear out of math but also elegantly illustrates that universe and the joy he finds in it. (Publishers Weekly 2012-06-15)

Lockhart is famous in the math world for a 2002 essay about the state of mathematics teaching. He described it as akin to teaching music by forcing children to transcribe notation without ever touching an instrument or singing. Measurement is his attempt to change the equation: a conversational book about mathematics as an art that invites the reader to join in the fun. Sounding every bit the teacher whose love for his subject is infectious, he guides us through exercises in geometry and calculus--giving information and hints along the way while always encouraging us to ask, and answer, "Why?" Lockhart does not try to make math seem easy; instead he wants his readers to understand that the difficulty brings rewards. (Evelyn Lamb Scientific American 2012-09-01)

This invitation to tackle mathematical questions is infused with the joys of the rarefied reality of maths. Paul Lockhart largely avoids complex formulae and the wilder shores of jargon, opting instead for simple geometric drawings, lucid instructions and honest warnings about the hurdles. Covering size, shape, space and time, Lockhart, a maths teacher, gets through scores of problems, from showing that a cone in a hemisphere occupies half the volume to determining the size of the largest circle that can sit at the bottom of a parabola. Elegant, amusing and challenging. (Nature 2012-09-20)

Prospective readers should rest assured that while aimed at the nonexpert, Lockhart's writing is sophisticated and mathematically modern...In place of the usual boxed and high-lighted formulas and tricks, Measurement offers questions to be pondered. Lockhart invites readers to trade tutorial fake problems about actual objects, which lead students to abhor school mathematics, for real problems about fantastical objects, which lead mathematicians to love math. (Brie Finegold Science 2012-11-09)

This book forced me to use mental muscles I haven't exercised in a long time, but it felt fantastic! Paul Lockhart is a mathematics evangelist; his passion for his subject is evident on every page, in every line. Looking at the subject of Measurement, he takes the reader on a journey that covers geometry, algebra, trigonometry, and on through differential calculus. He has a conversational tone and self-deprecating humor that sets the reader at ease. He understands that many people have been turned off of mathematics. His attitude is playful and joyous...Math is usually taught in such a compartmentalized way that it loses any meaning or coherence, and certainly any sense of wonder or beauty, but Measurement restores the connection. Paul Lockhart feels that math is the most beautiful, abstract and pure art form, and that it is actually fun! By the end of the book, you come to agree with him. (Gretchen Wagner Sacramento Book Review 2012-12-07)

There are many books available these days on what mathematicians do, and this is one of the best...Lockhart's approach is fresh and effective. (C. A. Gorini Choice 2013-02-01)

About the Author

Paul Lockhart teaches mathematics at Saint Ann’s School in Brooklyn, New York.

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Customer Reviews

For non-math people this presentation is very accessible and easy to read.
Lhianna
I am now half way through this book and it is one of the best books explaining the process of mathematical thinking that I have ever read.
ROGER S TOBIE
The book is great because the author breaks down the subject into simple concepts that even I could understand.
Garrett

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Carlos Bueno on September 14, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Lockhart's enthusiasm and humor shows through on every page of this book, as he makes cheerful battle with fundamental ideas. Too often we teach dead & dry facts, and leave creativity as an exercise for the reader, if we mention it at all. Measurement's primary subject is that intuition and creativity, spelling out tricks and tools that creative mathematicians use to cope, and the joy in it that keeps them going:

Keep asking questions! They are more important than answers.

Prove something more than one way. Can you generalize?

Pay attention to symmetry, wherever you find it.

Guess. Then guess again. Get used to being stuck.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By ROGER S TOBIE on October 23, 2012
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I am now half way through this book and it is one of the best books explaining the process of mathematical thinking that I have ever read. It explains in plain English lots of interesting and basic mathematical theorems, many of them geometrical, without obscuring them in a blizzard of algebra. Even though the author decries depending on diagrams as proofs, there are lots of very clear and helpful hand drawn diagrams which make various concepts clear. Yes, there are algebraic formulas but they are germane to the subjects being discussed and are not inserted just to make the author look good.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Garrett on November 13, 2012
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This is a great math book even for people who don't think they are good at math. When I watched the video of this guy talking about the subject I thought I would give it a try. The book is great because the author breaks down the subject into simple concepts that even I could understand. So far I have only read the first chapter. The book discusses the deep philosophical thoughts in math, for example what is a proof?. The first chapter discusses geometry. I recommend this book to any one who want to develop an love for the subject.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Lhianna on November 28, 2012
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If you only ever read one book on mathematics in your life, read this. Paul Lockhart writes so clearly and passionately. (Yes, I used "passion" and "math" together!) He is a brilliant mathematician AND a great writer! This is a very rare combination. He presents math in an intuitive and conceptual way that shows you the beauty of discovery and patterns and symmetry but requires very little calculation or knowledge of the mathematical language. For non-math people this presentation is very accessible and easy to read. He is talking about concepts that are universal. For math-people to presentation style is a reinforcement of why you love math, do math, and a demonstration of how you really think when you are solving a problem. I highly, highly recommend this book!
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34 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Wilhelm Ruff on January 3, 2013
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Paul Lockhart uses a different approach to teaching mathematics. He introduces axioms, then asks questions about possible extrapolations, but does not guide, and does not provide answers which would allow the reader/student to verify their ideas.

E.g., page 29 shows two star-like figures. He asks if I can work out the angles of a regular n-sided polygon. I had some ideas but could not balance them against a solution provided, and thus work out where I went right/wrong. This happened in an even more discouraging manner on page 31, where he asks, again without guidance, What are all symmetrical polyhedra? That's when I stopped reading because I felt inadequate.

Without having been able to remember some of the terms from school, I would not even have been able to know what the latter part of the first topic was about.

This is not meant as a criticism. Students of mathematics may very well appreciate his teaching methodology. I just would like to say that this book was not meant for the likes of me: a person who would like to learn about mathematics from the beginning.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Ed Eckard on January 12, 2013
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Read this with a pencil and paper beside you so you can do the problems and draw diagrams for yourself. The book isnt easy. It gives a non-mathematican an insight into how the math guy thinks and its fascinating. How many degrees are there in a pentagon? I loved the book, I'm reading it for the second time.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Robert Pelini on June 23, 2013
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I have gone through only about a third of the book and have put it aside out of fatigue, though I expect to pick it back up in a month or so. The approach to mathematics is both interesting and unique, giving a new and clear perspective on concepts we have often taken for granted before. There is something here for everyone; new concepts for the less mathematically trained and new perspectives for those with strong mathematical background. That is why I will surely pick up the book later.

The problem I have is that the book attempts to explain the most basic areas of mathematics, and yet puts forth countless simple, interesting, but difficult-to-answer questions--with no answers or proofs provided--that I believe are beyond the capabilities of most readers without a mathematics degree. As a reader, the choice is to stop and try to answer the questions that follow each topic (if you can), or skip over them and wonder if you really absorbed what you just read.

This book needs an appendix or a companion guide to answer all the teasing questions posed and proofs requested of the reader.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Yevgeniy Triletskiy on February 25, 2013
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I will only say this: if I had this book and this teacher in my High School curriculum, I would have majored in math.

I cried tears of awe reading this book. The man is writing poetry with mathematics. Don't think it can be done? Read this book and lament on the fact that you were deprived of this art-form.

If you are a parent, consider providing inspiration for all the hard work in your kids math classes with this book as a guide.

Start reading and enjoy the journey into the jungle where odd creatures behave in all kind of interesting patterns for us to explore!
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