Single Digits: In Praise of Small Numbers

Marc Chamberland. Princeton Univ, $26.95 (248p) ISBN 978-0-691-16114-3
Chamberland, professor of mathematics at Grinnell College, produces a fascinating, compact set of entries on mathematical problems, conjectures, and theorems. The theme of single digits provides a novel framework for all the mathematics, tying together disparate theorems in sections related to a single number. Each brief entry is clearly explained, making the problems comprehensible and accessible to math lovers of all backgrounds, though they do vary in difficulty and complexity. Chamberland addresses a wide array of elegant mathematical concepts that are generally foreign or obscure to the lay public, including the Stern sequence, Thue-Morse sequences, and Marden’s Theorem. More serious math lovers may want to supplement the introductions given in the book with further research, not because of any lack of critical information, but because Chamberland offers enticing explanations that will leave readers hungry to know more. Epigraphs at each chapter’s beginning include quotes from the Buddha, W.E.B. Du Bois, Alexandre Dumas, and Paul McCartney, among others, informally connecting the material to human culture. Chamberland also presents a few problems for readers to solve on their own, with answers provided in the last chapter. This wonderful book never loses its focus or momentum, and readers may dip into it for a few entries or read straight through. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/27/2015
Release date: 06/01/2015
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 240 pages - 978-0-691-17569-0
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