Thinking in Numbers: How Maths Illuminates Our Lives
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Thinking in Numbers: How Maths Illuminates Our Lives

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3.48 of 5 stars 3.48  ·  rating details  ·  405 ratings  ·  95 reviews
This is the book that Daniel Tammet, bestselling author and mathematical savant, was born to write. In Tammet's world, numbers are beautiful and mathematics illuminates our lives and minds. Using anecdotes and everyday examples, Tammet allows us to share his unique insights and delight in the way numbers, fractions and equations underpin all our lives.

Inspired by the compl...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published August 16th 2012 by Hodder & Stoughton (first published August 1st 2012)
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Ben Babcock
I can’t resist picking up mathy books when I’m in a bookstore. As a mathematician, I love broadening my knowledge about the field—and seeing what passes for “popular mathematics” these days. Thinking in Numbers is a slim volume that promises to “change the way you think about maths and fire your imagination to see the world with fresh eyes”. It didn’t do that for me—but maybe that’s because I already think about maths that way. Daniel Tammet is an exceptionally talented voice when it comes to pr...more
Paula
I received this book from the GoodReads First reads giveaway program. Thank you author/publisher for the opportunity to read and review this book.

Thinking in Numbers by Daniel Tammet is a book of twenty-five short essays relating to math and our lives. I personally liked several of the essays but there were some that I just couldn't relate to. I did find myself doing some of the math calculations as I was reading. In the essay Proverbs and Times Tables, I do remember learning some of the number...more
Jessica McCann
When it comes to math and numbers, generally speaking, I am not a fan. I'm a word girl. And yet, in THINKING IN NUMBERS, Daniel Tammet has found a way to help me appreciate the complexity, the magic and, yes, even the beauty he sees in numbers. Early on in this book of essays, Tammet put math into terms I could understand.

"Like works of literature," he wrote on page 10, "mathematical ideas help expand our circle of empathy, liberating us from the tyranny of a single, parochial point of view. Num...more
Dan
In turns fascinating and exasperating, as I imagine it might be to talk with someone, whom, like the author, is a savant in a particular area of knowledge, but not others. The author's abilities with numbers and linguistics are notable, and that comes through in page after page of these short essays on, as the subtitle indicates, life, love, meaning and math. At the same time, he shows a remarkable lack of grasp of areas outside of those, and his conclusions and musings often seem contrary to wh...more
Sue Smith
Finally finished! Not that this was a bad book - no, it was genuinely interesting with spots of true insight and genius and lots of chin rubbing, hmmmmm moments. No, it was a worthy read.

But it was the best soporific book I've ever had the pleasure to read.

My reading habits have been - uhh...... 'curtailed' - in the last year due to extenuating circumstances. So my reading times have been relegated to evening, just before bed, which isn't usually an issue. But just you try it while you read a b...more
Caroline
Very interesting essays that spin off from Tammet's wisp of seeing a mathematical aspect of something in daily life: how we experience time, the formula behind a sestina, how the recent import of the zero during his days at school might have influenced references to nothingness in Shakespeare's plays. He studies the references to the calculus of history in Tolstoy, and reflects on Nabokov the chess player. The essays are mostly about 5 pages, and with so many the quality varies of course. But mo...more
Diane S.
I was always abysmal at math in school, not the ordinary stuff like addition, subtraction and multiplication, but fractions, geometry, and algebra sent me running for help. I could never understand why some people found it so fascinating and spent their lives trying to solve complicated equations, so not for me. So when this book promised to show the reader how math could be interesting, how it applied to everyday life, I though why not?

In these essays, Tammett show how math can be used for ever...more
Ben Oon
Random statistic: four in five reviews will rate this book five stars. (Note: this is not an actual statistic. I thought it’d go well with the title, however.)
Anyways, when looking at this book for the first time, I thought to myself, “Who seriously thinks in numbers?” Math is indeed my favorite subject by far, and I would love to spend my entire educational career studying it. Yet, as much as I relish it, I would never think about everything with numbers, as if every geometric figure had dimen...more
Saadia
I am a fan of Daniel Tammet and loved his first book "Born on a Blue Day", 7 years ago. He is one of a handful of living geniuses and is quite, quite human and able to communicate and have a loving social life. I am awed by his ability to discuss and reframe complicated concepts using math as well as his linguistic ability. Learning and understanding multiple languages and his ability to convey his thoughts clearly, incisively and beautifully in English, his native tongue.

For example, in the "Ca...more
Miriam
A brilliant exploration of the way Tammet's mind works, but also of the way that numbers influence our lives. I think of myself as a "word" person, not a "number" person, but this beautifully written series of essays about numbers made me love them.
Lynn
Never did I think I would even look twice at a non-fiction book about numbers and math. But, I recently saw "Thinking in Numbers" and boy, was I blown away.

First, let me introduce you to the author: For five hours and nine minutes in 2004 in Oxford, Daniel Tammet recited 22,514 decimal places of the number Pi. 22,514!! With nary a repetition. Daniel has "high functioning autistic savant syndrome" and he is certainly high functioning!

He shares a few mathematical facts that we probably all have h...more
Simon Alford
This book is collection of the autistic-savant-author's essays that self-describingly "share his unique insights and delight in the way numbers, fractions, and equations underpin all our lives."

The insights are not unique. The majority of the things I read were old bits of fact nobody really cares about. For example, the author write of the beauty of a student of his learning her multiplication tables. Who cares? I'm sure you enjoyed it, Mr. Tammet, but the rest of us are normal people who don'...more
Lucy
How math affects and is affected by everyday life. Starts for him with being one of 9 children, so he thinks in groups of 9. Chess, infinity, why good mathematical solutions are beautiful, calendars, the possibility of life on other planets, reciting 5 hours-worth of the digits of pi for a Guinness-certified world record, Shakespeare's zero, multiplication tables. etc.
Some of this was way over my head, but interesting all the same. It does make me want to read his first book: Born on a Blue Day...more
Kat Dornian
Daniel Tammet is an extraordinary writer, he brings such a beautiful wordplay to describing his love of numbers. Thus, he makes numbers feel very real and human. His topics are very broad and brief. He gives only a taste of the ways math touches every facet of life, sometimes with quite tenuous connections in some areas. None the less, it's a very fast book to read, and the writing style makes it very enjoyable. I questioned some of the math and history halfway through, but even if Tammet's fact...more
Brian Clegg
This collection of 25 essays by Daniel Tammet, probably best known for his feat of memorising vast quantities of digits of pi, is an enjoyable light way of getting an introduction to some of the reasons that maths is more than just a mechanism for doing science or adding up your shopping bills.

Some essay collections don’t work so well in book form, but these make excellent bite-sized nuggets, with Tammet ranging far and wide over a landscape that successfully pulls in poets, authors and playwrig...more
Nick Turner
Between the author's and the abridger's attempts to make a dry abstract subject interesting for the lay reader, I found the concentration on surface details frustrating.
In the end it does convey the mystery and awe of mathematics, a little of what mathematicians do and why men and women feel passionate about abstractions like numbers.

I'm listening to a spoken audio adaptation abridged by Kirsteen Cameron.
In contrast to the author, I can think of English special-purpose names for small numbers e....more
Ob-jonny
This is such a fantastic book about numbers and how they influence the real world. It is written by the guy they call "The Brainman" in documentaries because of his amazing achievements. He was able to break the record for memorizing pi out to beyond 20,000 digits. It took him over 4 hours to recite all of the digits and this is discussed in a chapter of the book. Each chapter is about a different topic and they usually really stimulate the imagination. I like the chapter about big numbers becau...more
Irene Hayes
I love thinking about things numerically but this book was all over the place. I couldn't understand if he was going somewhere exciting or if we were just in the middle of a family story. I read his first book - Born on a Blue Day - first, so I kind of knew what to expect but, oh my. I stuck it out but it was not easy. Not sure I would recommend this book. If you are looking for an extension of his autobiography, i.e. Born on a Blue Day 2, then by all means.
John Kaufmann
Normally I don't finish books that I would rate 1-star. This was a gift, so I felt obligated to show gratitude to the gifter, so I stuck with it. And on its surface, the gift wasn't a bad choice - I read non-fiction almost exclusively,I like science, and I am reasonably proficient with math. However, I failed to see any purpose for this book. I didn't learn anything about numbers or math, or what its like to "think in numbers." The book had little coherence - there didn't seem to be any theme or...more
Evan Snyder
While I liked the concepts of the book as a whole and thought he chose some interesting topics to write about, the actual writing on said topics did got quite do it for me. Tammet's storytelling ability was lacking, with the monologue wandering aimlessly and filled with excessive efforts to sound poetic. He also had an uncanny ability to not do the math when I wanted to see some number crunching and write out arithmetic where I didn't have any interest.

Despite my frustration with most of the ess...more
Sid
I read a lot more fiction than non fiction. My mother gave me this book as it was one she couldn't put down. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I also like reading popular science every once in while and this was in that same vein.

I had seen Daniel Tammet years ago doing an interview and was amazed by his descriptions of numbers and how he saw them in his head. This book was like that interview but much more intimate. Most of the chapters are how numbers impacted his life and people in gene...more
Juliet Wilson
This is a brilliant book of essays that I won in a Goodreads First Reads Giveaway.

Each essay looks at a different aspect of maths in an accessible and engaging way. Many of the essays are in fact as much about linguistics as about maths. Hence we learn how to count to four in Icelandic (and other languages), find parallels between proverbs and the times tables and connections between calculus and the work of Tolstoy. Other essays muse on the nature of the ideal city and whether there is intellig...more
Shalaka
I got this book as a Goodreads First Look winner. Collections of essays are not my favorite type of book, it's too easy to put it down between chapters and never pick it up again. Some of these essays were enchanting and fun, others were laborious. Tammet sees numbers in everything. I enjoyed the more down to earth stories of how many combinations there could be of he and his many siblings, his recitation of pi to 10,000 digits, his experience tutoring elementary school math. Philosophy or histo...more
Anna
I have a penchant for books that intertwine story with mathematics. I find the play of numbers and their appearance in the world to be enchanting. And yet ... this book left me wanting so much more. It started off pleasantly enough, but there were FAR too many conjectures on the part of the author that had nothing to do with math or factual history. It always went along the lines of: "Oh imagine how he must have felt about those numbers. They could have been significant to him in some way." And...more
Richard
Just took me months to get through this. Some lovely vignettes on Shakespeare, chess, and the wonderment of numbers that would have driven me to more study of math when I was in school, had I the privilege of a thinker of math and not algorithm repeaters, but too many of these seem to just get going and then cease. His essay on his pi computation record is the most brilliant here--fleshed out and rife with deep meaning, human and thoughtful and emotive all at once. But I can't help but feel that...more
Pau Cevasco
This book is probably better than I rated it. I came to it by chance and was immediately attracted by both title and summary, but I'm sorry to say I was mostly disappointed by it. It felt... Cheap, like the author was talking down on me, being condescending. I'm not saying is bad; in fact, I quite enjoined some of the anecdotes, allegories and theories, but the general feeling is that it let me down.
Cyberdyne
A great book... most of the time. Tammet gives fantastic points of view of his "mathematical" world, yet, sometimes he rambled on about stories I didn't care too much about.
Randy Yee
Not what I was expecting, There were a couple of interesting chapters, but most of it was boring, and links between the various topics with math seemed tenuous at best. It felt like a lot of the time the author was trying to sound philosophical and poetic, which just made it really cheesy. Math is one of the most beautiful subjects in the world, and this book just didn't convey it well at all. Maybe this would've been better if I wasn't a mathematician, but I feel like there's much better books...more
Erika Lau
Some of the essays/chapters were quite interesting, some weren't. I enjoyed looking at numbers from a different perspective but it felt like there was no point to the book. It was just bunch of random stories that had something to do with mathematics, but no main philosophy behind it. I am a person who quite likes mathematics, but probably not THAT much. At certain points the connection between the actual story and the numbers felt forced, rather than natural(as it was probably intended).
Honestl...more
Carol Harrison
A fascinating collection of essays on math by someone who is passionate about the subject--so much so that even I, a life-long mathophobic, was captivated.
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Daniel Tammet was born in a working-class suburb of London, England, on 31 January 1979, the eldest of nine children. His mother had worked as a secretarial assistant; his father was employed at a sheet metal factory. Both became full-time parents.

Despite early childhood epileptic seizures and atypical behaviour, Tammet received a standard education at local schools. His learning was enriched by a...more
More about Daniel Tammet...
Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant Embracing the Wide Sky: A Tour Across the Horizons of the Mind Islands of Genius: The Bountiful Mind of the Autistic, Acquired, and Sudden Savant

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“A bell cannot tell time, but it can be moved in just such a way as to say twelve o’clock – similarly, a man cannot calculate infinite numbers, but he can be moved in just such a way as to say pi.” 4 likes
“Things were changing; I was changing. All swelling limbs and sweating brain, suddenly I had more body than I knew what to do with. Arms and legs became the prey of low desktops and narrow corridors, were ambushed by sharp corners. Mr Baxter ignored my plight. Bodies were inimical to mathematics, or so we were led to believe. Bad hair, acrid breath, lumpy skin, all vanished for an hour every Tuesday and Thursday. Young minds in the buff soared into the sphere of pure reason. Pages turned to parallelograms; cities, circumferences; recipes, ratios. Shorn of our bearings, we groped our way around in this rarefied air.” 3 likes
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