Friday, May 20, 2016

The Joy of X

At this point, I think it's just easier to compare Steven Strogatz's The Joy of X to similar math books I've read. Then again, some people might not have read the other reviews. Okay, here's the deal: if you're looking into The Joy of X, then chances are you will also want to consider two other books: Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension and The Magic of Math.

All three books present themselves to a public with not much math background, but they go about it in different ways. One of the most obvious differences is that The Joy of X (which I'll call Joy from now on) is split into a whole bunch of little chapters of about eight pages. These go through the general topics of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and some other newer ideas in mathematics, in that order.

It is also full of personal anecdotes, which makes the reading more memorable. Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension (which I'll call 4D) had a few anecdotes, and a lot of little activities for you to do yourself, which made it very fun to read. The Magic of Math (Magic) did not have many anecdotes or activities. But, it did have proofs, which 4D lacked and Joy only did a few of.

Of the three books, 4D gives the best impression of an actual tour, guiding the reader through whole areas of mathematics and stopping to marvel at each one. In comparison, Magic seems a bit laid back, with only 12 chapters (4D has 21), but you can really take your time to understand the subjects you're given. As I said before, Joy has short chapters. It is therefore more fast-paced, a whirlwind of "Look at that! Isn't that cool? Now, on to the next thing!"

Personally, I think 4D is the best of the three, with Magic as the second and Joy bringing up the rear. This is not to say that Joy is bad. If you like the style of bite-sized tidbits of math, it will probably be your favorite. You can come to your own conclusion, and pick which book (or books) you want to read.

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Magic of Math

The Magic of Math, by Arthur Benjamin, has so many puns. I feel like I should start with that. Some puns, are bad, and some are worse, but they all are puns. Also it's about, like, math, I guess.

This book, I think, is definitely aimed at more of an everyday audience than other math books I've covered (except, of course, for this one, which you should all read). I think that, as long as you have a decent grasp on basic algebra, you will breeze through the book, especially if you skip the asides which are scattered throughout.

The Magic of Math spends a lot more time on proofs than all the other math books I've read, and I think that works to its benefit. Sometimes the other books state things and expect you to just take them as facts, which works for them, because they are just kinda taking you on a sightseeing tour of different areas of mathematics. However, I like the way Arthur Benjamin proves everything in the book (sometimes in asides), because it means you can take the time to understand what he is saying. This is especially effective because The Magic of Math is a book (how insightful of me!), so you can take your time re-reading things and it won't go anywhere.

In conclusion, if you are slightly interested in reading a book about math, read either The Magic of Math or Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension. The first one is more focused and requires more work on the reader's part (at least if you want to understand everything), while the second is a fun tour on mathematical discoveries and concepts. Choose wisely. Or, you know, just read both.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, & June

I liked The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, & June, and my friends make fun of me for it. Yes, it is about girls, and yes, it has elements of romance, and yes, it is very cheesy, but it was fun to read and had an interesting story.

April, May, and June are three sisters, named in chronological order (April is the oldest and June is the youngest). They have just moved to the town of Somewhere Probably because their parents got divorced. Now, they are living with their mom, and about to start school. Already, this has a lot of stuff going for it, but it gets better: on the first day of school, the three sisters get superpowers.

I know, right? So, April gets the power to catch glimpses of the future, May gets the power to turn invisible, and June gets the power to read minds. Now, in a new town, at a new school, and with crazy secret powers, the three girls have to learn to live with their new lives.

The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, & June was a fun book to read. I was on board with the characters the whole time, and I wanted to see them triumph, and it feels good to share their struggles. If you like fun, cheesy books which are full of heart, then read this book. No matter what your friends say.