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50 Mathematical Ideas You Really Need to Know
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50 Mathematical Ideas You Really Need to Know (50 Ideas You Really Need to Know )

3.76 of 5 stars 3.76  ·  rating details  ·  485 ratings  ·  41 reviews
Who invented zero? Why are there 60 seconds in a minute? Can a butterfly's wings really cause a storm on the far side of the world? In 50 concise essays, Professor Tony Crilly explains the mathematical concepts that allow use to understand and shape the world around us.
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published May 1st 2008 by Quercus (first published 2007)
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Brian Sison
This book should really be titled "An Introduction to 50 Mathematical Ideas..." Limiting oneself to four pages is very difficult to do even with simple concepts like Zero and fractions. It is downright impossible with broader concepts like Calculus, Game Theory, or Relativity.

Even worse is the fact that these broad introductions to complex ideas contain multiple small, but drastic, errors. This book would be fine for a complete math novice who has no intention of ever using these concepts or th
May 01, 2008 Kent rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Tracy
Grabbed this on sale at Borders, and it was worth the discount price. Written by a Brit, it does a good job of highlighting the many mathematical ideas that each of us has probably been exposed over the years, while adding some very interesting history into the mathematicians studying the problem.

Each Idea is exactly four pages long, so they are given equal stature and rank. Some are more obvious than others. Some Ideas are easy, some incredibly advanced. I enjoyed the time line for each Idea.

Björn Bengtsson
This book contains trivia about mathematics.

It contains 50 topics of general interest, and each topic can be read by itself. There is no need to read the book from cover to cover, so it is a great coffee book, or for breakfast reading, etc.

Each topic is explained in an easy and relaxed way, requiring no prior mathematical knowledge, which makes it easy to grasp.

Anyone with the slightest interest in mathematics would enjoy this book.
I learned more about Roman numerals - idea 1 was all about Zero - and how the Romans didn't have nothing.

QED has been replaced with a solid square - how disappointing!

Many of the other ideas I had already come across but I did find them well explained and I liked the style - neither too heavy nor too trivial.

I picked this one for the cover for Summer09 Challenge 30.09 but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Four pages dedicated to each of the 50 ideas. More prose than proof (not at all proof, actually), this title introduces someone's version of 50 important, or at least highly interesting, math concepts.

A good way to pass the time during a sit down and become acquainted w/ some tools that you've likely not heard of before. However, some of the descriptions are bit confused, or juvenile, which is likely driven by format and intended audience. Too, each section closes w/ some one-liner quip, often t
as a math gal this isn't really anything i would put forth for serious math heads...but if you're looking for a book that will introduce a mathophobe to some of the more fascinating mathematical concepts this is the stuff. that's why it got the stars it did.
Douglas Larson
A nice collection of mathematical concepts, disciplines and problems. Each is explained well but concisely. The variety of ideas presented is wide and include a discussion of zero, number systems, Pi, e, infinity, prime numbers, algebra, logic, probability, fractions, geometry, and matrices to name some of the 50. I regard this as more of a reference, not a book I would read cover to cover, though each topic is so well written and so easy to understand that I find myself wanting to read other to ...more
Sasha Zbarskaya
those who have at least some inclination towards math will have their inspiration to read more; those who haven't will benefit at least from dusting off this and that from the school course of algebra.

nice excursion to the math universe, quite refreshing. some typos and minor mistakes are there, though not critical.

из моего ФБ периода перевода:

в свете новых законодательных инициатив, кажется, книгу, которую я сейчас перевожу, оклеят с головы до пят бирками 18+: в ней есть, обожемой, _задача Тома
Maurizio Codogno
Ci sono molte collane divulgative, e anche per quanto riguarda la matematica la Very Short Introduction di Timothy Gowers è insuperabile. Però ogni collana ha un pubblico di riferimento, e secondo me queste "50 grandi idee" sono più adatte al grande pubblico. I temi, in questo caso quelli matematici, sono infatti trattati in pillole, quattro pagine cadauno; la trattazione è naturalmente di base, ma arriva anche a temi non banali tipo l'ultimo teorema di Fermat e l'ipotesi di Riemann (con un erro ...more
Jonathan Gnagy
Great descriptions of some of very interesting ideas. I read 1 idea a day for 50 days and found all the ideas interesting and explained well enough that I understood (and I learned a bit about their history at times too). A great way to keep the mental juices flowing when not in college or just not taking any serious math.
John Schneider
When my family saw me reading a math book for fun, they thought I was crazy. I think they are crazy for not wanting to learn more about mathematics. Although far from an advanced course on math, this book is fun and informative for the most part. Every so often it covers a math problem that only a mathematician could love, but such quirkiness make the book. Since mathematics covers so many different topics, this book should enable even the most bitter hater of math to find some part of math to l ...more
Very enjoyable read for me. I don't claim to understand all the concepts nor do I claim that the mathematical ideas are sound. This is one book I think about often. More than likely would read it again.
Good clear summary of the ideas. Gets a bit confusing when you reach the last few which are the most complicated ones but not surprising given each idea is given four pages.
Vilém Zouhar
Even though it's very similar to other popular science books dealing with mathematics, I found some topics that surprised me and I was glad that I got a brief (and sometimes funny) 4 page explanation.
Bastian Greshake
I'm not much of a math-expert although I find it interesting what crazy stuff can be done with it. So I gave this book a try. The examples which are presented are well chosen (as far as a non-mathematician can say this) and for the most ideas everything is well explained. But at least for some ideas a bit more background-information and some more examples would have helped me to get it easier.

If you need some refreshing of school-math and want to learn a bit new this might be a good read.
While some of the concepts in this book were explained at a level that I could understand them, many more were not. I found myself confused more often than not. It seemed like it could be some interesting information, but it was not written to a beginner level, which is what I would expect from a book by this title.
This is a review of the Spanish translation, which is AWFUL, I wouldn't say unreadable but it's taken me FOREVER to read this because I dreaded opening it again. That said, the bite-sized chunks of math trivia are somewhat easy to digest, and I'm still hungry for more (maybe from a different author?), so not much harm done. FINISHED it this YEAR which was one of my challenges for 2013. It was hard.
It started off as a bathroom read, but now I am deeply interested in the topic. The idea that "math has nothing to do with numbers", finally makes sense...
André Rodrigues
The chosen topics were adequate, but many of them didn't add much more than what you should know by the end of high-school.
What really brings the book down are its numerous typos in the mathematical deductions, which defeats the purpose of having them in the first place (although the approach deserves some recognition, since many popular science books just 'tell' instead of 'showing').
For the price I paid, and how quickly one can read this book to get a better insight into the development and history of mathematics, it gets the rating I gave. Some of the simpler ideas or chapters could be omitted, but the timeline for them and how much earlier some of the beginnings arose for some of the ideas well worth it.
David Stoots
I've been reading on of these concepts a night. I then find my self thinking about the concepts, the history of the idea and theorectical, and philosophical implication of the concept of zero for example. I like reading books like Schroedingers Cat and Beyond Eistein, then to sit back and let these concepts take root.
Andrea Omicini
Per chi ha studiato matematica all'università, un veloce e stimolante Bignami, da tenere sempre vicino. Per chi non l'ha fatto, una buona occasione per capire che la matematica delle medie (inferiori e superiori) è solo un pallido simulacro del meraviglioso spettacolo della matematica.
Yes, even if you give this a cursory read. (As I did when the math started to get a bit beyond me. I still got an unclouded idea of the concept.) Clear, short descriptions of key mathematical concepts starting with zero and ending with Riemann's Hypothesis (not yet solved).
Nathan Glenn
I enjoyed this book- it doesn't require the read to do any complicated math. Instead, it presents a variety of interesting problems, along with their history, significance, and application. I feel like I understand the actual field of mathematics better after reading it.
Jan 06, 2009 Steven rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone who wants to know why we study math.
I got this book on a whim (and on sale). It was helpful in clarifying certain mathematical ideas and provided good reasons as to why each idea was important. Crilly gave not only each idea's theoretical importance but also its practical applications in the world.
This books describes 50 different interesting mathematical ideas, and gives entertaining and interesting facts about each of them.

It actually serves as a nice light reminder of a lot of math ideas, and some of these ideas were really interesting to read about.
This was a really good book for people who like math and want to learn about it. It's a basic primer for math, but explores a lot of complicated concepts like, e.g. Fermat's last theorem. I recommend it to everyone who's a little bit interested in math.
Jan 16, 2009 Liz marked it as to-read
I was never a math person, but I always told myself that when the pressure of school was off I'd go back and take a math class and see if I could learn to love the "M" word. Found this book for $5 at Borders and plan on tackling it this year (2009).
I wish I had this when I was in school. It's great at explaining the basic ideas behind mathematical theories, the histories of them, and in many cases, gives practical examples of how they're put to use outside of math labs.
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