52 in 52 Book Summaries

Book Summray: The Joy of X: A Guided Tour of Math, from One to Infinity by Steven Strogatz

The Joy of X: A Guided Tour of Math, from One to Infinity
Book by Steven Strogatz

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The Essence

Cornell professor Steven Strogatz compartmentalizes and expands his endeavor to popularize math in the New York Times opinionator series “The Elements of Math.” Many of the mathematical concepts that we studied in primary school are reframed as practical anecdotes that revitalize our curiosity for developing the stigmaed skill of mathematical thinking. The language of mathematics has led to discovery after discovery about what our organized, yet chaotic, existence actually is. Intuitive explanations for significant subject matter invite the reader to bask and appreciate how applicable understanding mathematics actually is. From addition to calculus, Strogatz shows us the joy that comes with numeracy.

The Joy of X Journal Entry Notes:

This is my book summary of The Joy of X. My notes are a reflection of the journal write up above. Written informally, the notes contain a mesh and mix of quotes and my own thoughts on the book. Sometimes, to my own fault, quotes are interlaced with my own words. Though rest assured, I am not attempting to take any credit for the main ideas below. The Journal write up includes important messages and crucial passages from the book.

• The right abstraction lead to new insight and new power
• Math supplies us with broader lessons about how to solve problems approximately when you can’t solve them exactly and how to solve them intuitively, for the pleasure of the ‘Aha!’ moment.

• Word problems give us practice in think not just about numbers, but about relationships between numbers…This is essential to math education, relationships are much more abstract than a number. But they’re also much more powerful.

• Mathematical signs and symbols are often cryptic, but the best of them offer visual clues to their own meaning.
• A mathematician needs functions for the same reason that a builder needs hammers and drills, Tools transform things.
• Things that seem hopelessly random and unpredictable when viewed in isolation often turn out to be lawful and predictable when viewed in aggregate.
• The most abstruse and far-fetched concepts of math often find applications to practical things.
• Wrongs answers are educational…as long as you realize they’re wrong.
• Vector: “To carry” carries you from one place to another. Two kinds of information are shown: Direction, and Magnitude.
• Sometimes we ought to sacrifice a little precision for a lot of clarity.
• Lots of phenomena in this world are the new results of tiny flukes.
• The key to thinking mathematically about curved shapes is to pretend they’re made up of lots of little straight pieces.
• Math holds the hidden unity of things that would otherwise seem unrelated.

If you liked what you saw. Here are 3 titles that I recommend based on what was discussed in The Joy of X.

  1. Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea by Charles Seife
  2. How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking by Jordan Ellenberg
  3. Infinite Powers: How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the Universe by Steven Strogatz

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