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42 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Even more important than originally thought
A man went on business to Lucca, Florence, and then Pisa. In each city, he doubled his money, then spent 12 denari. At the end, he had no money. How much did he start with?

This and hundreds of other math-heavy financial questions were asked in Liber Abaci, or "The Book of Calculation", published in 1202 by Leonardo of Pisa, who became better known as...
Published on July 5, 2011 by Ed Pegg Jr

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56 of 64 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Don't buy the Kindle edition
I recently bought a Kindle and this was the first eBook I bought for it. It was quite a disappointment. Although the contents itself is interesting (I would probably rate a printed version 4 stars), the fun was spoiled by the poor conversion to Kindle format. I'm not an expert on this matter, so I don't know if this is inherent to eBooks, or if it's just the editors' poor...
Published on August 18, 2011 by Joachim Wulff


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56 of 64 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Don't buy the Kindle edition, August 18, 2011
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I recently bought a Kindle and this was the first eBook I bought for it. It was quite a disappointment. Although the contents itself is interesting (I would probably rate a printed version 4 stars), the fun was spoiled by the poor conversion to Kindle format. I'm not an expert on this matter, so I don't know if this is inherent to eBooks, or if it's just the editors' poor job.

Most annoying are:
- Transliteration of Arabic into Latin text is partially done with images, which cause line-breaks in the middle of words. The word 'Muhammad', with an underdotted 'h' occurs quite often and causes a lot of unnecessary white space.
- Mixed fractions become ambiguous because there are is no space between the whole number and the fraction (and the numerator is in the same size font). So 112/13 can mean either 'one hundred twelve thirteenth', 'one and twelve thirteenth' or 'eleven and two thirteenth'. This makes following the examples quite a challenge and distracts from understanding them.

Also:
- Occasional references to page numbers. Kindle doesn't use pages.
- In the beginning of the text the '2' in squared entities is not super-scripted. In later part this is done properly.
- In the illustration that explains the use of symbols for digits in terms of angles in the graph, the symbol for '6' contains 7 angles. (This might be true for the printed edition too).

In short: buy the paper version, it's worth reading (I agree with the previous reviewer). Even if the Kindle version is a bit cheaper, it's a waste of money.
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42 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Even more important than originally thought, July 5, 2011
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This review is from: The Man of Numbers: Fibonacci's Arithmetic Revolution (Hardcover)
A man went on business to Lucca, Florence, and then Pisa. In each city, he doubled his money, then spent 12 denari. At the end, he had no money. How much did he start with?

This and hundreds of other math-heavy financial questions were asked in Liber Abaci, or "The Book of Calculation", published in 1202 by Leonardo of Pisa, who became better known as Fibonacci. The book is led to the European popularization of 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0 -- the Hindu-Arabic number system.

Why? It was faster than the Roman method. The many questions were aimed at merchants. It was profitable. The merchants who used the methods in Liber Abaci were able to beat their competitors, and this caused the new methods to see widespread usage throughout Europe. Now, to a modern reader, Liber Abaci's six hundred pages of detailed calculations for how to make money conversions, tariff fees, and business transactions with a variety of obsolete currencies may seem like a tedious read. To a merchant of the era, some subset of the pages gave exact instructions for how to make more money.

The 13th century merchants of Pisa, Genoa, Milan, and Florence all took up the new mathematical system. At the time, there were other influential books for merchants. With Liber Abaci, they formed the initial core set for business math.

Forensic analysis of the other books was done a few years ago, and it revealed that Fibonacci was the author of the other influential books, as well.

Keith Devlin gives both the ancient and modern history. I had the privilege of seeing his presentation for The Man of Numbers at a recent math conference, and it was all a fascinating, gigantic story.

For the Kindle, there is a shorter companion book by the same author: Leonardo and Steve: The Young Genius Who Beat Apple to Market by 800 Years.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Credit Where Credit Is Due, September 30, 2011
This review is from: The Man of Numbers: Fibonacci's Arithmetic Revolution (Hardcover)
No one needs to be informed that we have been through a calculating revolution in the past few decades, with a computer seeming to be on everyone's desk and in everyone's pocket. This particular calculating revolution, though, has been just one in a series, starting with notching tally marks on a bone around 35,000 years ago. Just as we take computers for granted now, so also we take for granted 0, 1, 2, and all the rest, but those are inventions as much as computers are, and they were a revolution in their time. It is a revolution that can be credited to a mathematician who is more famous for popularizing (he didn't invent) a series of numbers that bears his name, Fibonacci, but he now gets credit for introducing Arabic numbers to Europe in _The Man of Numbers: Fibonacci's Arithmetic Revolution_ (Walker & Company) by Keith Devlin, a mathematician who is well known as "The Math Guy" on NPR. Fibonacci didn't invent Arabic numbers, of course, and they are so much better a calculating system than the Roman numerals that preceded them that they would have been adopted eventually, but Fibonacci made it happen. Devlin's fascinating account shows how he did it, and how he didn't get credit for it, and how we now know him to be one of the most influential mathematicians who ever lived.

Although Devlin's book is supposed to be about its title character, it isn't a biography. Unless some librarian discovers a long-lost manuscript someday, Fibonacci will never have a biography. We know a little about him and his influences, all of which Devlin tells us, but details like his place and date of birth and death, family life, or what he looked like just don't exist. Fibonacci's father, a merchant, took him to north Africa when the boy was fifteen. There, he learned the Arabic numbers and spent a decade in training from mathematicians. After he returned to Pisa, he published his masterwork in 1202, _Liber abbaci_, "Book of Calculation," a 600-page introduction to a better way of working with numbers. The book was not addressed to mathematicians, but to merchants. Fibonacci showed how what he called the "Indian figures" could be used to write any number, the ease with which they could perform the four basic calculator functions, how fractions could be used, how square and cube roots could be taken, and more. Quickly a merchant who insisted on using Roman numerals and counting boards was surpassed in efficiency by those who mastered the new system. The book was an instant success, so that Fibonacci issued different versions of it, and also others got into the act. In the next century, maybe a thousand or more similar manuscripts were written in Italian vernacular on the same themes. Textual analysis of these works all show that they were clearly beholden to Fibonacci's original.

In a final chapter, Devlin writes about the Fibonacci Numbers; if you know Fibonacci's name, it ought to be for the Arabic numbers you see every day, but probably it is due to a little problem he put into _Liber abbaci_, about rabbits who breed through generations, and how to count the number of pairs in each generation. It is the series 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, and so on, each number being the sum of the pair preceding it. It has remarkable mathematical properties, and the numbers show up in nature with surprising frequency. Fibonacci, however, didn't originate the series, and his name was attached to it only in the 1870s. They are interesting in their own right, but they aren't really Fibonacci's. Appreciating Fibonacci for his real achievement is the aim of this book, and Devlin presents a convincing argument to show that Fibonacci did nothing less than start the modern arithmetic revolution.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A bit disappointing, January 8, 2012
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This review is from: The Man of Numbers: Fibonacci's Arithmetic Revolution (Hardcover)
After reading the 192 pages of this book about Fibonacci, it's clear that everything we know about Fibonacci could fit into a page and half. We know what he wrote, where he was born, that he went to North Africa as a boy and not a whole lot else. This book is almost a placeholder for a biography. Even a lot of the math (which we do know) was skipped over. Too bad, it seemed like an interesting topic.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dog and fox solution is correct, July 22, 2011
By 
Keith Devlin (Stanford, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Man of Numbers: Fibonacci's Arithmetic Revolution (Hardcover)
See my comment to Elwood Dodge's review where I give the complete solution. (Amazon requires I rate the book, but realize my rating is biased.)
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Medieval Arithmetic: An Historical Perspective, November 1, 2011
By 
G. Poirier (Orleans, ON, Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Man of Numbers: Fibonacci's Arithmetic Revolution (Hardcover)
As some reviewers have already pointed out, this book really concentrates on history of mathematics rather than mathematics itself. In fact arithmetic is a better term to describe the types of problems addressed. The book's main focus is the impressive work of Leonardo of Pisa, also known by the nickname of Fibonacci, and his books (particularly Liber Abbaci); these were important contributions that illustrated how to solve important practical (mainly arithmetical) problems of the times. Although, the author asserts, none of Fibonacci's original works have survived the centuries, they have been transcribed - some of these transcriptions being still in existence today. They have also been borrowed from by some later (even some contemporary) writers. Consequently, the author uses a bit of forensics in an effort to determine whether the ideas/techniques presented in some of these later works were original or whether they came from an earlier source and if so, which one. It turns out that many of them likely came from Fibonacci. Very little is known about Fibonacci's life, but his achievements were ground-breaking and have left their marks.

The author's writing style is clear, detailed, analytical and often quite engaging. I would classify this book as closer to a scholarly work than to a popularization aimed at a very broad readership. Consequently, I think that readers who are serious students of the history of mathematics would likely appreciate this book the most. Nevertheless, anyone can learn a great deal from reading this intriguing book.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, October 12, 2011
By 
Richard Gary (Palo Alto, California) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Man of Numbers: Fibonacci's Arithmetic Revolution (Hardcover)
Although the subject is inherently interesting to those with an inclination to history of science books and although the author appears to have researched the subject thoroughly and writes well, this book falls short of expectations. The problem is that almost nothing is known about Fibonacci, the man himself. So there is little that is personal to Fibonacci (or Leonardo Pisano, as he would have been known during his life).

The book gives good coverage to what life in the time of Fibonacci must have been like and to the impact of his translating the works in Arabic into Latin and Italian and thus introducing the 13th century Europeans to advanced mathematical thinking. The book is a quick read (particularly if you don't try to read through and solve some of the sample problems!).

Ironically for a book about a man who translated math from one language to another, the author says on page 20 (to illustrate that there are many ways to represent the number three) that "three" in French is "tres" and in Spanish it is "tre." (It's "trois" and "tres," respectively.)

So if you're a fanatic for math history, this book will be fine. Otherwise, temper your expectations.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Very little substance, June 13, 2013
By 
Phillip Ausburn (Cumming, Georgia United States) - See all my reviews
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The subject should have made for a better read. Too munch speculation and too little math. Towards the end the book the information given was just filler to make the book longer.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A history of your math book., November 10, 2011
This review is from: The Man of Numbers: Fibonacci's Arithmetic Revolution (Hardcover)
In about the year of 1170 a man named Leonardo was born in Pisa. Opening a book he wrote in 1202 he referred to himself as Leonardo Pisano, Family Bonacci, from this Latin phrase filus Bonacci his present day nickname "Fibonacci" was coined by a historian in 1838.

Fibonacci is usually remembered only in connection with the `Fibonacci sequence' however, in this fine book Keith Devlin carefully outlines his role as a towering figure in the movement of Hindu-Arabic numerals and arithmetic from the southern Mediterranean into Italy where it spread into Europe.

The system was known in Italy before Fibonacci was born but it had was little used and not seen as being of value. It was the achievement of Fibonacci in his books to describe the system in terms of the problems encountered by merchants. He provided page after page of problems that involved trade, the measurement of land, the division of profits and the exchange of one form of money for another. Each problem was carefully worked out with the problem described in the text and the numbers presented in red in the margin.

Fibonacci had written the first practical math textbook and it was copied over and over again by other authors. With real world examples such as "On finding the worth of Florentine Rolls when the worth of those of Genoa is known" he had written the first book on the Hindu-Arabic system that had popular appeal.

The type of book that we all use to learn basic arithmetic is the direct descendant of this type of writing. The story of the development of math and math learning is very well told in this most enjoyable book. It in no way requires a math background or skills to read and enjoy. I recommend it to anyone who likes a good story of how our world came to be.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not the most riveting math history, November 9, 2011
This review is from: The Man of Numbers: Fibonacci's Arithmetic Revolution (Hardcover)
I will have to admit, this is not what I expected. Kevin Devlin has gained popularity as a proselytizer of mathematics, and this book on Fibonacci seems to be the perfect vehicle for someone as erudite and learned in the mathematical arts as Devlin. But this book was a disappointment.

I do not attribute it all to Devlin however. He chose a very difficult and hardly simple task. As Devlin himself admitted, there is scant history on Fibonacci the man, let alone his mathematics. Devlin must have had a devil of a time gaining proper perspective on the man's life and his ability as a mathematician. He has had to depend on mostly tertiary sources and a very active imagination to tell the story.

In addition, the main contributions of which Devlin is writing about: the importance of the Arabic number system on the evolution of western commerce and science is something that we take for granted. the idea of how to represent numbers is such a large part of our DNA that the discussions, very well crafted discussions, seem to be obvious and rather a waste of breath. It is of course anything but a waste of breath, but it just seems that way.

The other major issue is that Fibonacci was not the originator of the number system, he was the popularizer through his writings. And popularizers rarely get the respect that originators get.

Lastly, Devlin is a mathematician, his attempt at history writing is admirable but not entirely rigorous nor is his writing of the history riveting. The mathematics was quite well written, but the history part was less than satisfying, partly due to the lack of original material on which to base the story on, and partly because the historical writing seem to be pedestrian and somewhat rushed.

I have to hand it to Prof. Devlin for giving it the old college try, and there seems to be quite a bit of hard work and scholarship involved, it just wasn't a mathematical nor a history page turner.
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The Man of Numbers: Fibonacci's Arithmetic Revolution
The Man of Numbers: Fibonacci's Arithmetic Revolution by Keith Devlin (Hardcover - July 5, 2011)
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