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Letters to a Young Mathematician

3.81  ·  Rating Details ·  890 Ratings  ·  85 Reviews
The first scientific entry in the acclaimed Art of Mentoring series from Basic Books, Letters to a Young Mathematician tells readers what Ian Stewart wishes he had known when he was a student and young faculty member. Subjects ranging from the philosophical to the practical--what mathematics is and why it's worth doing, the relationship between logic and proof, the role of ...more
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published March 27th 2006 by Basic Books (first published 2006)
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Mar 11, 2013 Holmes rated it it was amazing
Being no mathematician myself (and certainly lacking in talent), I don't think I have ever been this engrossed in reading a book about math. I basically devoured it. In fact, I believe anyone can devour it: there are no exotic symbols or scary formulas to put one off; the focus is on the humanistic side rather than the technical side; the book reads almost like a story as the imagined "Meg" (to which the book is supposed to be addressed) grows from a curious youngster to an established mathemati ...more
Jan 08, 2016 Andrew rated it really liked it
Shelves: math-fun
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Angelynn Alvarez
Oct 20, 2014 Angelynn Alvarez rated it it was amazing
This book is amazing! Stewart did a great job in casually describing (to "Meg") what to expect in the life of a mathematician (in academia), as well as the splendor of mathematics. What I really REALLY liked was how the book described the beauty of mathematics in its own right, as well as the beauty of its applications in the real world. As a mathematics PhD candidate, I evidently am aware of the elegance of the subject, so a lot of the description was not new to me. Nevertheless, I ultimately f ...more
Feb 28, 2014 sqrt2 rated it liked it
a bit childish, but good,
a bit vague but interesting,
could have been better,
what he says in relation to G.H. Hardy I don't agree with at all and he doesn't demonstrate his claim least not with any clarity and definitely not with any conviction.
he de-mystifies certain things when he is actually trying to mystify them.
he tried to write for a broad audience and ended up really talking to no one, or rather, not really really reaching anyone.
it was good, but lacked strong opinion and deep insig
Andrea AE
Feb 02, 2011 Andrea AE rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mathematics
230 de 230. Me hubiera gustado leer Cartas a una Joven Matemática cuando estudiaba la prepa, de seguro me hubiera dedicado a las matemáticas y es que Ian Stewart te presenta todo ese mundo que va desde las mismas matemáticas hasta los matemáticos de una forma tan extraordinaria y fácil de comprender, abriéndote los ojos y borrando estereotipos que se tiene sobre ellas.
Sin embargo hay veces que se muestra más de un lado que le del otro, no es imparcial en algunos aspectos que debería serlo hacie
Hamed Zakerzadeh
Mar 07, 2015 Hamed Zakerzadeh rated it liked it
"If you publish nothing for five years and then solve the Poincaré conjecture, you'll be set for life, assuming you are allowed to keep your job while you are doing it. If you publish nothing for five years and then fail to solve the Poincaré conjecture, you'll be out on your ear."

Please don't get me wrong, I simply liked it and recommend it to everyone (at least who has some interests in math). But in particular, in the first chapters, the book didn't seem that interesting to me, to get 4/5. It
Sofia Lazaridou
Jan 11, 2013 Sofia Lazaridou rated it liked it
OK,I was out of my element here.My math teacher lend me the book and though it's recommended to high school students but I think if you're a high school student should really like maths and you read books about them then you should read this.I as mostly romance reader couldn't exactly follow the idea of the book because it's plotless.Stewart just talks about maths all by himself.It might had helped if Meg's letters were also inside the book since sometime he answered things to her that I did not ...more
Apr 14, 2012 Alastair rated it liked it
Clever, perceptive, genuine -- and, best of all, my favorite genre of non-fiction, which lies somewhere between memoir and essay but with some expertise behind it. Of course writers write about their own lives. It's also gratifying to get advice, even on a topic in which I'm unlikely to be able to follow it. I wish I'd paid more attention to math, or had more inspiring math teachers -- I would have been able to do interesting things with my developing view of the world if I'd had better math ski ...more
Mar 03, 2014 Charbel rated it liked it
Shelves: science
Letters To A Young Mathematician is a great book if you're looking for a genereal idea of what it's like to do mathematics for a living. It answers many questions, including the old wondering: what is mathematics exactly?
The book is a series of letters addressed to an aspiring mathematician called Meg. This is a fresh and interesting way to deliver factual information to the reader, and even a better way to keep track of the author's thinking process.
Ron Joniak
Jan 10, 2015 Ron Joniak rated it liked it
Lovely read to prepare the early mathematician for the future. Unfortunately, this book suffers from lack of deep insight and is often very vague. Meg is indeed, not real.
Joanne Greene
Jan 19, 2017 Joanne Greene rated it really liked it
Good book - not always easy to follow. It rambles. Dr. Stewart mixes reflections on his teaching experiences with anecdotes about the great mathematicians and some of the greatest problems and developments in the field. Looking forward to reading some of his other works.
Jan 02, 2017 Esther rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Beautiful and sincere. Sometimes funny, sometimes touching.
Dec 12, 2009 Zoe rated it liked it
As the title suggests, this book is written in the form of letters to a "young mathematician", offering advice and generally discussing what mathematics is and what it means to be a mathematician. The back cover promises that it "tells readers what world renowned mathematician Ian Stewart wishes he had known when he was a student", and I was intrigued because I had a mixed experience with mathematics in university and always wondered what I could have done differently.

I have to say, my experienc
Blamp Head
Sep 18, 2015 Blamp Head rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: .
Shelves: mathematics, reviewed
Dear Ian,

I read your book Letters to a Young Mathematician and was very impressed. First and foremost, you talked about what it's like to be a mathematician, and talked at length about the practical considerations a mathematician must necessarily face.

Your book didn't assume any technical knowledge of the subject, and indeed several Goodreads reviewers indicate that the book appeals (well, sometimes) even among those not inclined to study mathematics at all. Though some reviewers found your styl
Jul 20, 2011 Adam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mathematics
I've recently decided to go back to school for a degree in Applied Mathematics, so while my girlfriend was looking over the math section at a used book store she came upon this book. It is certainly a quick read as other reviewers have stated and I must say I found it an enjoyable one. I believe the intended audience of this book is for anyone in general. If you are interested in what mathematicians do, how they contribute to the world, or a glimpse into what they think about, then this is a goo ...more
Sep 14, 2015 Rossdavidh rated it liked it
Shelves: green
The hardest thing about describing this book is saying whether it's fiction or non-fiction. It's mostly a series of essays on math, mathematicians, and how the two affect each other. But, it's presented as a series of letters to a fictional young (in the beginning, aspiring) mathematician named Meg. But, the letters are written by the author, a bona fide mathematician, and not a fictional character at all. If he were just delusional, then this book would be solidly in the non-fictional camp. He ...more
Mar 14, 2016 Irene rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
Writing this on March 14th - apparently today is Pi Day, very appropriate.

As a mathematician myself I am biased on this one. Sadly, most undergraduate schools do not have such inspiring professors that care about nurturing the students' talent and love for their discipline. So it is a good thing that Letters To A Young Mathematician was written in the first place. But because of this afore mentioned lack of inspiring professors on an undergraduate level it can be pretty disappointing when compar
Sep 09, 2016 Cody rated it it was amazing
Being in an undergraduate math degree, this book really answered many of the questions I had been wondering about: Why do math? Pure or applied? What's it like to do research in mathematics? What's graduate school like? What's it like to do a PhD in mathematics? What's it like to teach mathematics? What's it like to be a mathematician?

Since the book is structured as letters directed to Meg, the "young mathematician," and being in a similar situation, it made this book very readable and opened my
Mar 25, 2008 Jerzy rated it liked it
Shelves: math
Probably nothing drastically new here for many young mathematicians, but still includes some good stories and useful tips, and it's always interesting to hear how an established professional got into their field in the first place.
Stewart makes an interesting point that, unlike many other fields, you don't just happen to fall into math - it has to be something you're really into (although it may take a lot of lucky coincidences to let you realize that you're good at math and into it as well).
Nov 24, 2010 Jeff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mathematics
Letters to a Young Mathematician is a short epistolary book with chronological letters addressed to "Meg," what I assume is a fictional mathematician. The letters begin with "Meg" in high school and end with her tenured position at a university. Through the course of the letters, Stewart gives advice and ruminates on the nature of mathematics, learning, teaching, and mathematical research and work.

While the ideas are often enlightening (I was particularly taken with ideas about how mathematicia
Jan 31, 2011 Deana rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Deana by: Mom
Shelves: 2009, read-owned, 4-5stars
I have no idea how to explain the genre of this, but it is excellent and highly recommended to EVERYONE, regardless of your interest in math (or lack thereof). The book unfolds as a series of letters from the author to Meg, a fictional (as far as I know) female with an interest in mathematics. The author, in case you are unaware, is a famous mathematician in real life. He's done lots of great research in the field, but in recent years his work has mainly been in writing "popular mathematics" - t ...more
Feb 12, 2013 Shayla rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
"Letters to a Young Mathematician" was not written for me. It was probably not written for you either unless you are a 16 or 17 year old female high school student who is very good at math and planning on becoming a professional mathematician. Keeping in mind the fact that I am not the target audience here is my review...

The book is at times very interesting and inspiring, with fascinating anecdotes and lots of recommendations for other texts, and at other times rather trite and overly specific.
May 24, 2008 David rated it really liked it
Ian Stewart is one of the most recognizable math popularizers out there. He has written many popular books, as well as writing a regular math puzzles column for Scientific American for a while. I read some of Stewart's popular math books when I was a kid (a blessing on our local public library!). I also admire his work with Golubitsky on analysis of pattern formation and nonlinear dynamics in terms of symmetry and symmetry breaking (his nontechnical books on symmetry in nature are a treat for an ...more
Dec 09, 2014 Gülseren rated it it was amazing
Matematik zaten vardı.Her zaman hayatımızın bir köşesinde yer edindi kendine.Evrenin dilini anlıyorsanız demek ki matematik biliyorsunuz.
Genç Matematikçiye Mektuplar kitabı,yazarın matematik okumayı düşünen Meg'e matematik ile ilgili yazdığı tavsiye mektuplarından oluşuyor.Bilgisayar,televizyon,araba,... çağı hep daha ileriye taşıyan teknoloji kısacası,zekice tasarlanmış birer matematik harikasıdır.Beğenerek izlediğimiz filmleri izlerken,o çok sevdiğimiz arabamızı sürerken,... hiç düşündük mü ac
Koen Crolla
Feb 02, 2011 Koen Crolla rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mathematics
A book by Ian Stewart contains, in the second paragraph of the preface, the line ``No longer do mathematicians believe they owe the world an apology''. How many chapters do you expect to contain extended apologies for being a mathematician? If you guessed ``several'', you must have read Stewart's books before.

Letters to a Young Mathematician is written as a series of condescending letters to a girl named Meg, who is considering becoming (and over the course of the book does become) a mathematici
Ed Terrell
Oct 16, 2015 Ed Terrell rated it liked it
Shelves: mathematics, 2015
"Letters" is an instructional treatise on what mathematics is and what it can be and how in esscence it differs from the “arithmetic” that many envision math to be. I became aware of Euclid's axioms as "the rules of the game" from my early college days and learned the main difference between mathematics and Chemistry, Physics and Engineering. The latter, all require real work. I switched my major to mathematics. It was simple: proofs follow the rules of logical inference. I took a Philosophy cla ...more
Zeynep Derin
Dec 04, 2014 Zeynep Derin rated it it was amazing
Bu kitap benim matematiğe olan sevgimin sadece yapabildiğim işlemlerinden ibaret olmadığını anlamamı sağladı. İlkokulda ya da ortaokulda söylediğimiz ' Bu matematik bizim hayatımızda ne işe yarar?' sorusunun cevabını vermektedir. Matematik aslında her ihtiyacımızda söylediğimiz her şeyin içinde var. Benim ortaokul öğretmenimin dediği sözlerden bir tanesi hiç aklımdan çıkmıyor. ' Türkçe okusanız bile matematik sizin hayatınızda olacak. ' sözü gerçekten matematiğin her şeyden ibaret olduğunu kavra ...more
Este libro lo leí hace tiempo, antes de entrar en la universidad, pensando que quizás me influiría a la hora de elegir carrera. Lo que recuerdo es lo siguiente: la verdad es que no me inspiró. Yo ya sabía lo que era la Matemática y no necesitaba que me lo explicaran. Tenía un ideal de la Matemática, y lo que esperaba era encontrar un relato apasionado sobre su experiencia con la Matemática. Pero no fue así. Fue una explicación sobre la Matemática para gente que no la conoce, algunos consejos y m ...more
Dec 09, 2014 Fatmanur rated it liked it
Kitapta matematiğin biyoloji ile, fizik ile, felsefe ile, teknoloji ile kısacası hayatın her alanı ile bağlantılarından bahsetmiş yazar.Kitabı okuyunca daha ilkokuldan itibaren öğrenmeye başladığımız matematiğin gerçekten ne işimize yaradığını , hayatımızı nasıl kolaylaştırdığını görüyoruz.Matematik okuyanlar için bir dert olan ispatların ne için gerekli olduğundan, bu yolda ilerlerken karşılaşacağımız zorluklardan, bu zorlukların getirisi olan her türlü güzelliklerden bahsetmiş yazar.Kitabı oku ...more
May 30, 2013 Doug rated it really liked it
I'm probably one of the target audiences for this book, so naturally I ate it right up. I teach high school math, and one of my goals each year is to encourage my students to start viewing math as something more than arithmetic and memorizing formulas or series of steps to solve specific problems. I'm thinking that I need to work readings from this book into my course, though I'd likely focus on the earlier "letters" which deal more with what mathematics is about and what mathematicians do rathe ...more
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Ian Stewart is an Emeritus Professor and Digital Media Fellow in the Mathematics Department at Warwick University, with special responsibility for public awareness of mathematics and science. He is best known for his popular science writing on mathematical themes.
--from the author's website

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“Unless you are genuinely interested in working with someone, don't. It doesn't matter how big an expert they are, or how much grant money the project would bring in. Stay away from things that do not interest you.” 2 likes
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