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The Man Who Counted: A Collection of Mathematical Adventures Paperback – January 17, 1993


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Here's a delightful little book that combines the joys of mathematical recreation with some fine storytelling. It follows the Arabian adventures of a man with remarkable mathematical skills, which he uses to settle conflict and give wise advice. The tales of his travels involve the solving of mathematical puzzles and sharing insights from the minds of some of history's great mathematicians. In reading it, you can almost smell the spices and feel the desert wind. You just don't find this kind of atmosphere in books about mathematics.

From Library Journal

Puzzle books can be tedious (unless you like that sort of thing), but not this one. First published in Brazil in 1949 by the mathematician Julio de Melo e Sousa (Tahan is the imaginary Arab author he claimed to have translated), it is a series of delightful "Arabian nights"-style tales, with each story built around a classic mathematical puzzle. The puzzles fit into the stories so naturally that they are a necessary part of the fantasy. The hero is a Persian mathematician and mystic named Beremiz who uses his powers of calculation like a magic wand to amaze and entertain people, settle disputes, find justice and, finally, win the heart of a beautiful princess. Reading the stories is as much fun as trying to solve the puzzles. For adults and children.
- Amy Brunvand, Fort Lewis Coll. Lib., Durango, Col.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; First Printing edition (January 17, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393309347
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393309348
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.7 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #54,461 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

62 of 63 people found the following review helpful By slandau@deltanet.com on May 26, 1998
Format: Paperback
I've read The Man Who Counted some 30/35 years ago in its original Brazilian edition. My book has desappeared long ago, but I've never forgotten its content. Last year, while vacationing in Rio, I was browsing through a book store and came across with a new edition of Tahan's book, also in the Portuguese language. Coming back home, I checked on Amazon.com and was delighted to learn that an English version of the Man Who Counted was available. I ordered a copy and gave it to my 9 year old son, who loved the book, as much as I did when I was about his age. Malba Tahan presents practical mathematical problems and curiosities by telling the story of Beremiz Samir, a man who lived in the ancient Arabia, and who had an incredible ability for counting and calculating. Beremiz was a simple and humble man that utilized his mathematical skills with remarkable fairness and common sense. Traveling from his hometown of Samarra to the ancient Baghdad, Beremiz, on his way, helps merchands, family members and friends to settle their personal disputes about money, properties, etc... Beremiz's mathematical wisdom spreads rapidly through the region, and soon he is invited to the Royal Palace to give advise to sheiks and to the King himself. The arithmrtic and calculations in The Man Who Counted are based in real problems ecountered by Beremiz and the people he meets on his way. Along with the mathematical curiosities, Tahan also teaches valuable lessons of life, all presented in a narrative which makes you read this book as a novel, and go back to parts of it once you're done. This book is specially recommended for young people. With its collection of curious practical problems, and great storytelling, The Man Who Counted will probably stir the attention even of those kids that "hate" math. The ones who appreciate math will definitely love this book and, very likely, will never forget it.
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45 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Young Kim on November 13, 2000
Format: Paperback
I first read this book in the original Portuguese many years ago, when I was still in grade school. Imagine my surprise when I found a copy in English! This is a truly marvelous book. It recounts the life of a humble, but wise sheep herder in ancient Arabia who through the power and beauty of mathematics and logic lives the greatest adventures.
It tackles in beautiful form some basic principles of mathematics, and teaches the reader the power of logical thinking. A book for all ages, highly recommended.
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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By "ksjanna" on May 1, 1999
Format: Paperback
Every time I read this book, it never fails to amaze me. I am so wrapped up in the beauty and intricity of mathematics that I forget that I really "hate" doing math!! This book not only gives fun puzzles to solve, but also forces you to see the wonder of mathematics. I would say more, but I don't want to bore you.. all I can say is that it's enchanting, wonderful, and you will never, ever regret buying it nor will you ever look at math the same way again.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 10, 1999
Format: Paperback
I loved this book, as do my kids. Told as stories, it contains some of the world's classic mathematical puzzles. I am often frustrated when people think math is only about numbers and calculations, and it was delighful to see this collection of entertaining stories that help to dispel that myth.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Nice guy on March 17, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was 13 when I read it. It is now 25 years later. I can still remember the high brought on by a book that vigorously exercised my mind and imagination.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 15, 1997
Format: Paperback
What can mathematics do for you? Read this pearl and you will find it.
It's not just about math: it's about life!
The Man Who Counted also taught, thought, loved, lived!
The adventures are great! It seems mathmagic!
This book changed my life, and will change yours!
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By T. H. Mckinnie on September 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
This great adventure story is an excellent gift for any student who likes math at all.
This is definitely not the math treatment they are getting in their public (or private) high school, although it should be. Further, this is better writing than they are getting in anything they are reading in their English class.
You will be hard pressed to find a more subtle statement of the absolute beauty of math.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Luiz Schechter on July 21, 2005
Format: Paperback
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I would be a different person without this book. This is THE book that made me like math over 40 years ago. Many (most?) educated Brazilians were exposed to it, and they keep buying it today for their kids and grandsons.

The plot includes positive parts of Islam only, which makes it very "1001 Nights" like. Arabia is the right historic background to introduce math, as ancient Greece is appropriate to introduce geometry, Italy for the Renaissance, and so on.

I recommended The Man Who Counted to the international school our kids studied at (and where I helped in the board), only to find that many families already had it, including at least one of the teachers'. A must.

You may also want to read this great article from BBC News about the book and its author: [...]
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