- Hardcover: 416 pages
- Publisher: Belknap Press; 8/26/12 edition (September 25, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0674057554
- ISBN-13: 978-0674057555
- Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 45 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #594,877 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Measurement 8/26/12 Edition
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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.
Top customer reviews
If you already know how joyful and remarkable mathematics can be, Mr. Lockhart writes in a way that is easy to read and offers many examples of familiar problems and solves them in a way that emphasizes the elegance and beauty of both the problem and its solution.
If you wonder WHY some of us KNOW that mathematics is elegant and beautiful and wish to share that joy, give the book a whirl. You don't need to know more about mathematics than basic arithmetic. As long as you know that algebra and geometry exist; expertise is not required, you will do fine. However as easy as it is to read, be warned that sometimes the mathematics and logic will appear so clearly as if by magic and other times your brain will be challenged and you may struggle mentally as mightily as a women struggles physically (and mentally) to give birth. Whether the struggle is worth it is entirely up to you and fortunately for you, unlike the woman who cannot undo her pregnancy if she finds the struggle to give birth too difficult, you can just give up and read on to the next problem and hope it is easier. There are many, many problems to solve in the book.
There is a lot of fun and entertainment in these some 300 pages, but there are also (maybe naturally) many things that could have been improved. Lockhart is a mathematician and he repeatedly points out that this profession is completely unconnected from the physical world. To make this even clearer, all the sketches in the book are what looks like hand-copied versions of computer printouts - imperfect representations of the ideal object one has in mind.
Almost from the very first page, though, any units are removed from the discussion so we deal with numbers only. But instead of simply referring to meters , inches, degrees or whatever unit you want to use, in the following we are constantly reminded of arbitrary "units of length" and others. In the same way, the book moves from measurement to motion by introducing time - which is then again simply replaced by (or reduced to) an arbitrary dimension similar to length. All that would have been a little easier to swallow if the title of the book had been "geometry" instead of "measurement." Maybe the better approach is to not try to force the reader to decouple the sketches (i.e. the real world) from the objects in mind.
Also it is not quite clear who this book is aiming at. Although it starts out with very simple ideas, it is probably not intended as a replacement for a basic course in geometry. While the topics pick up speed pretty soon, the style almost moves in the opposite direction. And I would rather let the reader discover the beauty of the subject herself instead of repeatedly interrupting the text with joyous exclamations by the author.
To sum it up, this is still a fun book with an almost honorable purpose. While there were things that I really didn't like, they probably won't interrupt other people's enjoyment of the book. So give it a try.
Most recent customer reviews
If you can understand this book, you do not need to read it!Read more