Mathematics Minus Fear: How to Make Math Fun and Beneficial in Your Everyday Life

Lawrence Potter, Author
Lawrence Potter. Pegasus (Norton, dist.), $24.95 (304p) ISBN 978-1-60598-376-9
Reviewed on: 07/30/2012
Release date: 09/01/2012
Anyone whose memories of math class leave “the bitterest taste” will find comfort as well as insight and plenty of laughs in this informal, irreverent look at math. The first thing readers need to know is that Potter is very serious about one thing: each topic here is based on a situation one could encounter in everyday life, from doing quick mental sums while figuring out a bar tab, to calculating bank interest rates or working out the odds of winning during a Vegas vacation. His brief vignettes star everyman-student Charlie, archetypically “tyrannical” math teacher Mr. Barton, and his star pupil, “know-it-all” Bernadette. Wacky word problems (the answers are in the back) keep the flood of information in context. Potter provides historical anecdotes that reveal the origins of fractions (thank the Egyptians) and how religious edicts have affected interest and banking rules. He even offers sympathy for those wounded by algebra, whose etymology stems from the Arabic word for both the process of setting a broken bone and the moving of a term from one side of an equation to the other. For anyone who has ever felt defeated by “the dark forces of mathematics,” Potter’s constructive guide offers enlightenment and hope. (Nov.)