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Letters to a Young Mathematician


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About the Author

Ian Stewart is Professor of Mathematics at the University of Warwick and is well known for his writing and broadcasting about mathematics for nonspecialists. He has written over 140 research papers on such subjects as symmetry in dynamics, pattern formation, chaos, and mathematical biology, as well as numerous popular books, including Letters to a Young Mathematician, Does God Play Dice?, What Shape Is a Snowflake?, Nature's Numbers, The Annotated Flatland, and Flatterland. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2001. He lives in Coventry, England.


Stewart (mathematics, Univ. of Warwick; director, Mathematics Awareness Ctr. at Warwick; The Annotated Flatland) has written yet another mathematics popularization, this time in the form of letters to a fictitious mathematician as she progresses from the level of secondary school student to tenured university faculty member. Stewart's purpose is to explain the nature of a mathematician's work, explore some of the many practical applications of "pure" mathematics, and discuss how to teach the subject. This he accomplishes in a set of highly enjoyable chapters without any equations to frighten off his more timorous readers. He sometimes draws on his own experiences as a researcher and teacher to further enliven the narrative, often to humorous effect. This excellent book for introducing lay readers to mathematics as a profession is highly recommended for public and academic libraries. [Letters is the first scientific entry in Basic Books's "Art of Mentoring" series.-Ed.]-Jack W. Weigel, formerly with the Univ. of Michigan Lib., Ann Arbor Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

"(This) book's greatest value is its insight into what it is to be a mathematician... His enthusiasm is infectious." The Times "The letter in which Stewart tells Meg how to teach undergraduates should be compulsory reading for all lecturers and tutors". Nature"

This new entry in the Art of Mentoring series takes the form of letters from a fictitious mathematician to his niece. The letters span a period of 20 years, from the time the niece is thinking about studying mathematics in high school through the early years of her academic career. The format works wonderfully to introduce readers to the basics of the discipline of mathematics while providing a sense of what mathematicians actually do. Throughout, the prolific and talented Stewart (Does God Play Dice?), a British mathematician, entertains while educating. He explains how mathematics is so much more than mere calculations and how it's used in almost every facet of our lives. He also discusses the beauty mathematicians can find in the natural world, demonstrating that a focus on numbers and patterns can enhance rather than detract from an aesthetic appreciation of the environment. Stewart also does a superb job of examining the nature and value of both applied research and pure research, which, he shows, are not nearly as disparate as many think. Although the book must be read by anyone thinking about a career in mathematics, others simply interested in learning about the field and how mathematicians think will find it compelling reading. (Apr. 17) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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