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Why Do Buses Come in Threes: The Hidden Mathematics of Everyday Life
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Why Do Buses Come in Threes: The Hidden Mathematics of Everyday Life

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  638 ratings  ·  72 reviews
With a foreword by Tim Rice, this book will change the way you see the world. Why is it better to buy a lottery ticket on a Friday? Why are showers always too hot or too cold? And what's the connection between a rugby player taking a conversion and a tourist trying to get the best photograph of Nelson's Column?

These and many other fascinating questions are answered in this
Paperback, 176 pages
Published March 1st 2000 by Wiley (first published March 29th 1999)
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Average rating 3.64  · 
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 ·  638 ratings  ·  72 reviews

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Apr 13, 2016 rated it liked it
Those of us on the math side of the great cultural divide tend to be less enthusiastic about the power of intuition. One of the primary aims of this fun little book is to show how intuition often misleads us in questions that should be dealt with mathematically. A simple example is the probability that two people in a group of 23 will have the same birthday. It is not 23/365, the chances are actually 50%.

Try this: You are brought a glass half full of whiskey and another full of water. You pour
Jul 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: to-re-read
On many an occasion I have wondered why I am endlessly cursed with bad luck, why so many out-of-this-world coincidences happen and, of course, why buses come in threes!
A greatly satisfying answer is provided in the pages of this book along with more information that you hadn’t even begun to ponder! It makes you realise that there are so many interesting things in this world, which involve maths! Sometimes it’s so discreet it’s barely comprehensible but if you know the maths you are almost ALWAYS
Jun 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Everyone, especially those abused by poor math pedagogy!
Recommended to Richard by: Bruce Cohen, on his retirement from Lowell
This is a splendid little book. Frankly, I recommend it to everyone , but it would probably only really be appropriate for those who are math-curious. In my ideal world, that actually would include everyone, since there’s a huge difference between math-as-it-is-taught and all of the fantastic stuff that often makes math cool.

And it’s easy to read. A total of eighteen chapters†, each short and easy to read, so one per sitting is both easily digestible but still short enough that you’d get thro
Eloise Vanbrabant
Jul 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book was soooo interesting! Out of the three books I’ve read by this author, this is definitely my favourite. It has loads of cool statistics that you’d use in everyday life. One of my favourite things I’ve learnt from this book is a cool mathematical strategy to see on average if a bet is worth placing. (I know you might be really annoyed at me right now as I am not going to tell you the trick; if you want to find out, just read the book yourself! Sorry for being annoying 😐!) I would defin ...more
Athan Tolis
Mar 27, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: education
A good friend's son, age 10, has been assigned this book (alongside another title by the same author) in school, presumably in addition to the normal math he gets given to study. My friend is very smart, she studied at Cambridge, but her math is no longer what it was twenty years ago, so on the strength of the fact that I still (very occasionally) find myself pushing symbols for a living I was drafted in to have a look. I ordered the books and reported back that I was about to start reading.

Aug 15, 2018 rated it liked it
“Why Do Buses Come In Threes?” delves into the hidden mathematics of everyday life. Those who find themselves fascinated by numbers and solve numerical puzzles as a hobby, will obviously love this book which sheds light of how maths is present anywhere and everywhere. And then there are people like me, who place mathematics on the same pedestal as foreign languages, because that’s how numbers float in front of us – no different from alphabets of a foreign script. The book serves to remind and he ...more
Apr 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
Maths isn't one of my strong points, but I recognize its interesting qualities. This little book promises something for everyone, no matter what their level of understanding, and provides it with an assortment of interesting facts, stories, historical info and general trivia by using familiar topics like birthday coincidences, planning a delivery route, traffic jams, rugby and the football pools.

Whether it's showing how maths can predict and explain the number of petals, buds or leaves on a flow
Ami Iida
May 28, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: math
Case applying mathematics to familiar everyday life
May 29, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Rather light book, kind of the maths equivalent of cracker jokes. Fails to acknowledge sources. The best part of the book is the Further Reading section, I'd recommend skipping straight to those. ...more
I read it in only a day.
I expected it to be boring, as a normal non-fiction book, but I was wrong. It was rather a fun, informative book about Math, Statistics and their practical application.
My version (Vietnamese translated) has a completely different name from the original, taken from the name of 1 chapter in the book. This was where I drew the line. The title (translated) absolutely missed the point of the book, its purposes, as a fun book and point-of-view changing one about Math and Statis
Jake Maddocks
Sep 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
While the book may be an “interesting read for even the most maths-phobic”, it turns out that most chapters are either complete waffle, common sense, or not explained well enough to be understood by the average maths-phobe.

I was handed this in 2011 as a present for my maths GCSEs. I remembered liking the book, however, with the 4th year of a Civil Engineering degree approaching, basic concepts of queue theory and making your calculator say “hello” are not how I intended to spend my time on holid
Elizabeth Grieve
Mar 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
A charming and fascinating book for all ages, explaining how mathematics is in everyday life whether we realise it or not. Accompanied with little hand-drawn charts, tables and drawings, it explains such things as yes, the title question, why buses always seem to come in threes. There's plenty more besides, such as mathematics of gambling, statistics, and why it's so hard to find a four-leafed clover.

A preview copy was provided by the publisher.
Tony Jay
Oct 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gripping Digits

Not a history of Mathematics Not a complete collection of the amazing aspects of maths So not a five but definitely close to top score because that perfect book would be enormous and this is an introduction with plenty of entertainment in a reasonably sized package.
This was pitched perfectly for ease of understanding and I enjoyed it while learning new stuff. And it's been around for twenty years, cool.
Matt Butler
Oct 14, 2019 rated it liked it
This book was slightly interesting in parts. In giving it 3 stars because I think, for the right audience, this could really engage some people in maths. However, for me, the interesting ideas just weren't developed enough. If they were pushed further, this could have been very interesting but that could also be alienating to some readers. I loved Singh's book on Fermat because the appendices dived into the maths further. ...more
Mar 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
An excellent look at the mathematics all around us, written with interesting and engaging discussions, fun facts, snippets of history and some magic tricks. The subjects meander around a little because it is trying to show how interesting the subject is, rather than focusing on any one subject in depth.

Lives up to its title, and there is nothing off putting about the presentation either. An enjoyable read.
Matthew Williams

Illustrates some of the principles of pure mathematics in a fun and engaging way. Presents things in a very simplistic way, however this often leaves you wanting more explanation.
Jonathan Woods
May 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A refreshing look at how maths is inherently part of our life with points raised being known to some and maybe nothing new to others. Whether you have potentially forgotten about maths from your school days, or are curious about the subject, this book will give you a refreshing insight into how important (and wonderful) maths can be.
Stephen Hunter
Jun 01, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: maths
Very interesting read but challenging. Not the kind of book you can read before bed and found it hard to read it if presented with a 30 minute bit of spare time to do some reading. I loved the content though. Another one of the books I half started to read about a year or more ago.
Aug 24, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pretty much of the same vibe as the other one.
Chris Amies
Mar 25, 2020 rated it liked it
Interesting but a bit repetitive towards the end. Also could I tell it was quite an old book (1990s) because almost all the examples are 'a man does this ...' and very few women? ...more
Apr 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Easy to read, interesting and entertaining

Easy to read, interesting and entertaining. Very easy to keep turning the pages and explains why the everyday things happen everyday!
Nov 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Sahar Sabati
May 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
If someone in your family or in your close circle of friends has a young child, you are no doubt intimately aware of how young ones see the world as a fascinating place filled with wondrous secrets that are within their grasp if they explore long and hard enough. We all used to be like that. But as we grow older and the various responsibilities of life settle in, we tend to lose this perspective. Many of my friends strive to maintain this it, and make good use of the tools they have available to ...more
May 27, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: school
I mean it was good but nothing original or special
Jul 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018

Table of Contents

1 Why can’t I find a four-leafed clover?
Links between nature and mathematics

2 Which way should I go?
From postmen to taxi drivers

3 How many people watch Coronation Street?
Most public statistics come from surveys, but how reliable are they?

4 Why do clever people get things wrong?
Sometimes experience and intelligence can be a disadvantage

5 What’s the best bet?
Lotteries, horses and casinos all offer the chance of a big prize

6 How do you explain a coincidence?
Coincidences aren’t as s
Pep Bonet
Aug 30, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: assaig
This is not the book which will change your life. But many people will enjoy it. It runs a great risk, common to all books intended to approach mathematics (other times it might be sciences) to the general public. Indeed, it's not easy to hit the right level: many tend to vary from simple to complicated and vice-versa, thus confusing the reader. Why do buses come in threes is clearly for the low-end, a knowledgeable reader with no particular training in mathematics. Most of the facts told are kn ...more
Wayne McCoy
Jun 23, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
'Why Do Buses Come in Threes?' shows how common questions can be solved with mathematics. That it does it in a very accessible and fun way is where it succeeds.

Taking questions like the book title's or others like why it's so hard to find a four-leaf clover, the book delves into all sorts of things. From fibonacci numbers to code making, a lot of ground is covered. The chapters are short and digestible. There are mathematic formulas and illustrations. It's all engaging and shows how math can hel
May 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc, read-in-english

Read all my reviews on

I received a free copy from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange of an honest review, thank you!

Come to think about it; Why do buses come in threes? Except, they don't. Buses usually come in twos. Read this book and you might just find out why this makes you won't have to wait as long for your next bus...

This book features some interesting question, like how to cut a cake in 8 with only three cuts, and exactly how ra
May 19, 2014 added it
Shelves: read-in-2014
You have probably seen some of those math problems on Facebook where people are outraged at how their children are being taught through Common Core. Besides being totally out of context, those people are missing the fact that the problems are focusing on number sense, understanding how numbers work and how they fit together. This book is basically about number sense and how it applies in the real world, covering things like cooking and traffic and botany. It reminded me of The I Hate Mathematics ...more
Apr 19, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in mathematics and of a scientific mind
Shelves: non-fiction
I've recently picked up and re-read this book as a nice little way to switch off before bed time.

The premise is the analyse how mathematics can be used to give insight in to common experiences such as the bunching of buses (apparently it is extremely unusual for three buses to bunch together, and requires a very long route and lots of passengers).

Covering a range of topics from probabilities to why clever people get things wrong, this is a great introduction to the subject with only a smatterin
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Robert Eastaway is an author who is active in the popularisation of mathematics. He is a former pupil of The King's School, Chester, England and has a degree in Engineering and Management Science from the University of Cambridge. He was President of the UK Mathematical Association for 2007/2008. Eastaway is a keen cricket player and was one of the originators of the International Rankings of Crick ...more

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