The Math Instinct: Why You're a Mathematical Genius (Along with Lobsters, Birds, Cats, and Dogs)

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9781560256724: The Math Instinct: Why You're a Mathematical Genius (Along with Lobsters, Birds, Cats, and Dogs)

There are two kinds of math: the hard kind and the easy kind. The easy kind, practiced by ants, shrimp, Welsh corgis—and us—is innate.

What innate calculating skills do we humans have? Leaving aside built-in mathematics, such as the visual system, ordinary people do just fine when faced with mathematical tasks in the course of the day. Yet when they are confronted with the same tasks presented as “math,” their accuracy often drops.

But if we have innate mathematical ability, why do we have to teach math and why do most of us find it so hard to learn? Are there tricks or strategies that the ordinary person can do to improve mathematical ability? Can we improve our math skills by learning from dogs, cats, and other creatures that “do math”? The answer to each of these questions is a qualified yes. All these examples of animal math suggest that if we want to do better in the formal kind of math, we should see how it arises from natural mathematics.

From NPR’s “Math Guy”—The Math Instinct will provide even the most number-phobic among us with confidence in our own mathematical abilities.

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About the Author:

Dr. Keith Devlin is Executive Director of Stanford's Center for the Study of Language and Information and a Consulting Professor of Mathematics at Stanford. He is a co-founder of Stanford’s Media X network a campuswide research network focused on the design and use of interactive technologies and its Executive Director. He is the author of twenty-four books, one interactive book on CD-ROM and over seventy-five published research articles. Since 1994 Devlin has been a regular contributor to NPR’s "Weekend Edition," where he is known as "the Math Guy" in his on-air conversations with host Scott Simon. Devlin is a frequent contributor to other local and national radio programs. Devlin was a co-writer of the BBC Horizon/WGBH Nova television documentary "A Mathematical Mystery Tour" and has appeared on a number of television programs, including the six-part PBS series "Life by the Numbers," for which he wrote the companion book.

Review:

"Intriguing ... Devlin has found a new and interesting 'angle' to present the beauty of mathematics to the general public." -- The Mathematical Association of America, August 2005

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