For seven years, Paul Lockhart’s A Mathematician’s Lament enjoyed a samizdat-style popularity in the mathematics underground, before demand prompted its 2009 publication to even wider applause and debate. An impassioned critique of K–12 mathematics education, it outlined how we shortchange students by introducing them to math the wrong way. Here Lockhart offers the positive side of the math education story by showing us how math should be done. Measurement offers a permanent solution to math phobia by introducing us to mathematics as an artful way of thinking and living.
In conversational prose that conveys his passion for the subject, Lockhart makes mathematics accessible without oversimplifying. He makes no more attempt to hide the challenge of mathematics than he does to shield us from its beautiful intensity. Favoring plain English and pictures over jargon and formulas, he succeeds in making complex ideas about the mathematics of shape and motion intuitive and graspable. His elegant discussion of mathematical reasoning and themes in classical geometry offers proof of his conviction that mathematics illuminates art as much as science.
Lockhart leads us into a universe where beautiful designs and patterns float through our minds and do surprising, miraculous things. As we turn our thoughts to symmetry, circles, cylinders, and cones, we begin to see that almost anyone can “do the math” in a way that brings emotional and aesthetic rewards. Measurement is an invitation to summon curiosity, courage, and creativity in order to experience firsthand the playful excitement of mathematical work.
A love song and a philosophical manifesto about the pleasures and frustrations, but mainly the pleasures, of doing math.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 416 pages
- 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
- Belknap Press
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