Measurement

Paul Lockhart, Author
Paul Lockhart. Harvard Univ, $29.95 (416p) ISBN 978-0-674-05755-5
Reviewed on: 06/18/2012
Release date: 09/01/2012
Hardcover - 416 pages - 978-0-674-06734-9
Paperback - 407 pages - 978-0-674-28438-8
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In A Mathematician’s Lament, Lockhart bemoaned the state of mathematics education in America. Taking up where he left off, 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. “In my mind’s eye, there is a universe where beautiful shapes and patterns float by and do curious and surprising things,” he writes. 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. 16 line illus. Agent: req (Sept.)
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