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Letters to a Young Mathematician

3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  567 ratings  ·  57 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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I assigned this book to my Trig class, and they responded mostly well to it. The funniest part is that they were surprised to find that Meg wasn't real. This worked well as a launching point into discovering math all around, and the students still mention how math is everywhere, much to their chagrin/surprise! Sometimes the author was a little long-winded or over their head, but the students sometimes considered actually looking into the strange things mentioned. I hope to adapt portions of this ...more
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
Angelynn Alvarez
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
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
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.
Andrea AE
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
Sofia Lazaridou
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
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
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
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
Koen Crolla
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
Adam Boudreau
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
"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.
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
Mar 25, 2008 Jerzy rated it 3 of 5 stars
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).
Jan 31, 2011 Deana rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
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
Alexi Parizeau
Perhaps I've read too many popular math books, because I felt Ian Stewart was paraphrasing both himself and others in many chapters. But that was kinda the point of this book. It's meant to be a casual introduction to the essential (and best) thoughts about mathematics, so it will necessarily summarize past writings. Stewart does a great job in that sense; I think I was happily smiling through the whole book. So if it wasn't a productive experience for me, it was certainly very pleasant.
Gurudatha Pai
Ian Stewart writes to a high school student who goes to college to study mathematics, goes on to grad school. The book covers simple ideas of mathematics and the philosophies behind them. I am even going to say that the book covers the philosophies of basic science not just mathematics. This book might be a useful book for any person who might be interested in doing grad school or phd aspirant.
David Hildebrand
It's a little blunt and lacks the elegance of A Mathematician's Apology. Maybe I'm not very interested in pop math anymore--it didn't offend me in any particular direction, it just seemed like a needless book.
I wish there were more books like this- small works that encourage people to go into science or math while explaining what they can expect for their career. Although primarily geared toward budding academic mathematicians, the book is useful for anyone who has an interest in math or academia. Written as a series of letters to a girl named Meg, the book highlights all the ins and outs of mathematics and an associated career. Though I don't agree with everything Stewart says, and some of the proof ...more
Doc Kinne
I was very impressed with this book. Starting small, the writing was good, and remained so, and only toward the very end did it get into concepts that were conceptually difficult or would only be really familiar to a professional mathematician.

Very much recommended for this interested in math or mathematicians, even if you don't want to be one.
The author writes with a level of authority that I am not sure he can evince. Much preferred are:

2. A mathematician's Apology by GH Hardy, which this book claims inheritance -- pfffft.
3. Thurston's on proof and progress in mathematics ( what it's like to do math today, from a working mathematician)
4. Uncle Petros and the Goldbach Conjecture (on why one might freak the fuck out and do a lot of math)
5. <- Profe
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
David Pantano
Letters to a young mathematician is a series of epistles to an up and coming yet fictitious mathematician. The scope of material is broad, consisting of mathematical topics both new and old. Certain topics are discussed in greater depth and detail than others allowing for Stewart's immense mathematical knowledge and ingenious modus operandi to shine through. The book will appeal more to existing mathematicians rather than to wannabes... where the thrill, exhilaration and beauty of mathematics an ...more
Oct 27, 2014 Avani rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: grad students
A beautiful, easy-to read exploration of what progress through the field of mathematics looks like, from late high school all the way through being a tenured college professor. An excellent book for any students in the sciences looking to stay in academia, not just mathematicians.
Eva Nickelson
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mikko Karvonen
Light-weight, witty and occasionally rather funny overview of the role of mathematics and the work and life of mathematicians in the modern world. It didn't tell me much anything new, except for a bunch of interesting anecdotes, but I enjoyed reading it.

Also worth reading for those not interested in mathematics - you don't need to know anything about the field to understand it, and reading might reveal something of the world that's often somewhat misunderstood, for various reasons.
It is an interesting book, a quick read but at a very introductory level. There was not much that was new but it contained gems like "All rainbows are personal". Do you know that there is not one rainbow that all of us see. Everyone one of us sees their own rainbows!

This book has also pointed to me to other interesting books written in past century about various aspects of mathematics. Might pick up some of them as and when I find them.
A very engaging book towards a hypothetical character Meg, from first encounter in mathematics to a tenured track professor in mathematics. It gives brief yet thorough picture of life coloured with mathematics, with glimpses of problems in mathematics along with some relevant insights. Very good for both people who are interested in mathematics and those who simply want to know what mathematics is all about.
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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

Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See other authors wit
More about Ian Stewart...
Flatterland: Like Flatland Only More So Does God Play Dice?: The New Mathematics of Chaos In Pursuit of the Unknown: 17 Equations That Changed the World Why Beauty Is Truth: A History of Symmetry Professor Stewart's Cabinet of Mathematical Curiosities

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