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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

Paperback, 333 pages

Published
August 31st 2010
by Penguin Books
(first published August 1st 2010)

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## Community Reviews

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Jan 20, 2015
Betsy
rated it
2 of 5 stars
·
review of another edition

Shelves:
nonfiction,
science-math

This book is well written and many of her stories are enjoyable, but on the whole it was a disappointment.

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

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

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

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 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

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 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

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.

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

Jen ...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

*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

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

Aug 22, 2011
Cheryl
rated it
3 of 5 stars
·
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

*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

**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

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

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

Pros: Lots of fun. Very educational. Very easy reading.

Cons: The book o ...more

I'm only giving it three stars however because at times I felt like I was just reading a series of anecdotes. They were interesting in their own right, ...more

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Jennifer Ouellette is the author of

More about Jennifer Ouellette...
**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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14 likes

“... 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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9 likes

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