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# The Calculus Diaries: How Math Can Help You Lose Weight, Win in Vegas, and Survive a Zombie Apocalypse

*Kiss My Math*meets*A Tour of the Calculus*Jennifer Ouellette never took math in college, mostly because she-like most people-assumed that she wouldn't need it in real life. But then the English-major-turned-award-winning-science-writer had a change of heart and decided to revisit the equations and formulas that had haunted her for years.

*The Calculus Diaries*is the fun a ...more

Kindle Edition, 336 pages

Published
(first published August 1st 2010)

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## Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)

The killer item was just a basic "fact" that was tossed it, again for no reason, that was no fact at all and the skeptic in me was really let down and I have to stop ...more

I loved math as a teenager. I would stay after school with a couple friends to do impromptu math competitions. When I got to college, I initially planned to major in math. But after my third semester of calculus, when I received a grade of “satisfactory” rather than what I was used to, I changed my major to French. I had loved algebra – I just “got it”. And geometry, though it wasn't quite ...more

1) A diary of the author's attempt to overcome her fear and loathing of calculus (save for the introduction and the epilogue).

2) An introduction to calculus.

What this book is:

1) A list of applications for calculus not unlike Week One of a calculus syllabus or the introduction to a calculus textbook.

2) A collection of anecdotes and facts about major figures (and some often overlooked figures and a couple of contemporary interviewees) throughout the history of calculus and ph ...more

The Good: This book is great in that in answers the question, "When are you ever going to use this?" Ouellette presents numerous examples of how Calculus impacts all of our lives. Everything from amusement parks, to rates of (zombie) infections, surfing and driving falls within the realm of calculus. She does a great job in this regard. The epilogue truly explains what her purpose was in writing this book. The point of the book is not to teach you how to do calculus, bu ...more

This isn't a math treatise, it's a not a textbook, so it's not going to satisfy the mathie in you (if one exists in you). At first I thought, "This would make more sense with some symbols and written as a proof," but I ev ...more

The trouble is, I *am* spellbound by the math for its own sake, and so I wound up very disappointed that there was hardly any actual calculus in the book at all. What little there is, is stuffed into the Appendices, and is only the absolute bas ...more

Oct 01, 2011
Patrick Stein
rated it
did not like it
·
review of another edition

Shelves:
quit-reading,
math

Quit reading at about page 120. It had some amusing math-history stories, but even pop math books shouldn't mangle the meaning of "density" or "proportional".

No, the density of a liter of water is NOT one kilogram.

No, the rate at which a cup of coffee cools is NOT proportional to its temperature.

In the section about craps, I was able to give her the benefit of the doubt and think she just phrased things awkwardly enough to confuse her, her physicist husband, and her editor. By the middle of Spla ...more

No, the density of a liter of water is NOT one kilogram.

No, the rate at which a cup of coffee cools is NOT proportional to its temperature.

In the section about craps, I was able to give her the benefit of the doubt and think she just phrased things awkwardly enough to confuse her, her physicist husband, and her editor. By the middle of Spla ...more

Mostly (pleasantly written) stories and anecdotes fine for a newspaper or a blog but that don't justify making a book out of them.

There is however a good simplified introduction on Fourier transform.

Jen ...more

Ouellette uses a humorous approach, relate-able stories, and history to tell about the practical uses of calculus. Did you know that the process of "balancing" in Algebra was invented more than 1000 years before the equal sign? I was fascinated to learn about Cartesian coordinates, vectors and then how the Mad Tea Party ride works. (It's dueling vectors th ...more

For mathematicians, the book gives a recap of your calculus classes in college (calculus 1 and 2, multivariable calculus, and differential equations). You also get to see calculus from a different viewpoint, that of a non-mathematician. For me, the book gave me insight on how to answer the question so often asked by my non-mathy friends: "What do you actually DO with calculus?"

For non-mathematicians, the book gives insight ...more

However, I enjoyed another book by Jennifer Ouellette earlier this year, and what with The Calculus Diaries' promise that calculus might help me win in Vegas and survive a zombie apocalypse, I figured I had to give it a go. Ultimately, I liked it well enough, although I can't say I understood all of ...more

May 08, 2011
Charlie
rated it
liked it
·
review of another edition

Shelves:
non-fiction,
goodreads-challenge-2011

The Calculus Diaries by Jennifer Ouellette was recommended to me some months ago during a lunch with a couple of friends. The conversation had turned toward math and physics (a favored topic amongst the two physic grads at the table)at which point my eyes started to glaze over as they often do when these topics come up. It's not that I don't enjoy them, it's that I have very little experience with them and felt I had nothing to contribute to the conversation no matter how interesting the discuss
...more

*how*you did calculus, and nothing about

*what*calculus was,

*why*you should use it or

*when*use it (never mind anything about its history). And while I used it my physics and theory of statistics classes, and in grad school in spatial statistics, I was always told how to apply it to specific problems, with again no discussion of

*what*,

*why*...more

As a direct consequence, I like most science popularization book I read, and read quite a few.

What I find exceptional in this one is contained in the title : the author manages to find numerous examples of applied calculus (and probabilities) in "real life". Or rather, to use real-life situations to ex ...more

*The Calculus Diaries*is the math book you should read if you don't understand the reason why math is important. Or if you don't enjoy math...or if you want to see how math can ...more

Ouellette manages to give detailed and super clear explanations to the most basic (and important) elements of Calculus while keeping things light and easy to follow.

It really helps that it reads more like a history book that sometimes dives deep into mathematical speak than a treatise on Calculus. The opportunities for gossip ...more

**Bonk**or

**Packing for Mars**(which I highly recommend), you'll probably just find it charming.

However, despite that caveat, I really liked this book. I'll confess that there were times when I thought,

*could I just see the equation for that?*and I was actually kind of in a hurry to finish it so I could read the appendix wher ...more

Nov 23, 2015
Danielle Robertson Rath
rated it
liked it
·
review of another edition

Shelves:
self-improvement-how-to-etc

This book was too good at piquing my interest in how Calculus is used in everyday problems, but not good enough at explaining how to actually solve those problems. Too often, author Jennifer Ouellette led me to care about a carefully painted scene or scenario, but then leave me hanging, "But wait, how exactly did Dido get that answer?!?"

This would be a great book if you're currently studying or about to take Calculus. However, for those of us that took Calculus ages ago, this book will not help ...more

This would be a great book if you're currently studying or about to take Calculus. However, for those of us that took Calculus ages ago, this book will not help ...more

*hate*roller coasters. I do

*not*want to lose weight. I have zero interest in gambling, or in zombies. But I like math, and so I put aside my prejudices and read the introduction. And the first chapter. And all the rest of it, because Ms. Ouellette's writing is intelligent and witty, and the content is entertaining, with many historical anecdotes and a good overview of the invention of calculus and its practical applicati ...more

Actually goes further than I would have thought, with predator/prey models (in the form of Zombie Apocalypse, which would have been more interesting without reference to Pride&Prejudice&Zombies) and calculus of variations.

She has losing weight in the context of optimizing with c ...more

But I am not the target audience and I can only read so many explanations of the derivative and integral before I go numb and no amount of funny anecdotes could stop me from asking myself "Why ...more

My only real complaint is that the book is very light on actual calculus. If the reader doesn't dig through the appendix, someone could end up reading an entire book on calculus and still ...more

I think the author does a good job at presenting how calculus works in real life situations and they are pretty varied; from how calculus apllies to Space Mountain at Disneyland to gambling in Vegas.

I would have appreciated more specific step by step problem solving examples as they pertained to the real world examples she provide ...more

May 27, 2013
Sandra Strange
rated it
liked it
·
review of another edition

Shelves:
history-and-nonfiction

Calculus has been beyond me since my only pre-calc class in high school. Even with this really clear account, I'm still not crystal clear about derivatives and integrals, but after the first chapters explaining these basics, the rest of the book presented really fun reading, relating calculus (even for those of us who don't understand it clearly) to real world applications from calculating shapes and speeds, etc of log flume and other Disneyland rides, the rate of infection from zombies, odds of
...more

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Jennifer Ouellette is the author of

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**The Calculus Diaries: How Math Can Help You Lose Weight, Win in Vegas, and Survive a Zombie Apocalypse,**due out August 31, 2010. She is also the author of**The Physics of the Buffyverse**(2007) and**Black Bodies and Quantum Cats: Tales from the Annals of Physics**(2006), both published by Penguin. Her work has appeared in*The Washington Post, Discover, New Scientist*...more## Share This Book

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“I think scientists have a valid point when they bemoan the fact that it's socially acceptable in our culture to be utterly ignorant of math, whereas it is a shameful thing to be illiterate.”
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“... I succeeded at math, at least by the usual evaluation criteria: grades. Yet while I might have earned top marks in geometry and algebra, I was merely following memorized rules, plugging in numbers and dutifully crunching out answers by rote, with no real grasp of the significance of what I was doing or its usefulness in solving real-world problems. Worse, I knew the depth of my own ignorance, and I lived in fear that my lack of comprehension would be discovered and I would be exposed as an academic fraud -- psychologists call this "imposter syndrome".”
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