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The Joy of x: A Guided Tour of Math, from One to Infinity

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  5,719 ratings  ·  718 reviews
A world-class mathematician and regular contributor to the New York Times hosts a delightful tour of the greatest ideas of math, revealing how it connects to literature, philosophy, law, medicine, art, business, even pop culture in ways we never imagined

Did O.J. do it? How should you flip your mattress to get the maximum wear out of it? How does Google search the Internet?
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published October 2nd 2012 by Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Eustacia Tan
Aug 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
I will be the first to admit that I'm not good at math. Despite taking Higher Maths in IB (I just practiced so many times that I somehow knew how to solve the question), I still didn't understand a lot of concepts. And despite all the quotes about how math was beautiful in my textbooks, I still just don't get it. And I suspect that this problem isn't unique to me a lone. So, I was really intrigued by the promise of this book to be a guided (and fun) tour of math.

The Joy of X, unlike what the nam
India M. Clamp
Aug 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
To many he is the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor of Applied mathematics at Cornell University, but to me he is a man making the complex palatable in small pieces manifesting into vibrating works of art. He likes Archimedes. We then played on table with “ kinder augen.” Seagulls watched as we attempted to replicate Archimedes lever using a fork, saltshaker and finger while salty breezes blew the blue linen corners.

“The Joy of X: A Guided Tour of Math, from one to Infinity” is not a rollercoaster
Jan 13, 2019 rated it liked it
This book is based on Strogatz's online New York Times column, "The Elements of Math," and on the whole I found it a little underwhelming.

I typically rate pop-math books based on how many "fuck, that's cool" moments they elicit, and that's a game of diminishing returns - many of my "fuck, that's cool" resources were spent on books I read previously (and recommend more heartily), like Bellos's Here's Looking at Euclid and The Grapes of Math, Parker's Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimensi
Jan 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
I wish I could have read this book during that hell year of first year university, when I barely passed calculus despite devoting more time to studying it then the other 4 subjects combined (or maybe it just seemed like that -- very long nights in the library, writing out reams of papers of formulae, the table strewn with my hair and tears).
Now sufficient time has passed and, like childbirth, I forget the pain and remember only those good moments, the eureka! ones.
This isn't a book for geeks and
Aug 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
Are you the type of person who spent hours on the bus on the way to school working out multiplication tables for prime numbers only? When you're having sex do you find that the earth may not move, but images of numbers and mathematical symbols appear in your head when things are going great? OK, I'm getting a little too personal here, but if you're a numbers geek, you'll love this book.

Steven Strogatz writes in a very chatty, entertaining style about the nature of mathematics, from number theory
Jun 02, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-read-2016
You wouldn’t know it, but maths permeates everything we do and touch. Your smartphone would not be able to operate without maths, nor would the internet. You couldn’t buy anything risk free if we didn’t have the primes. Things as unlikely as the correct time to flip a mattress, the number of people to date before settling down, the best path from A to B, that if you look hard enough you can see sine waves everywhere all have some element of maths in them.

He does manage to take a subject that ma
Oct 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Struggling through several years of higher math in engineering school in the 1960s didn't engender a love of mathematics in me. It wasn't until years later that I began to value the beauty and elegance of mathematics. A big part of my appreciation came from mathematicians like Steven Strogatz who wrote about math for readers who appreciated the concepts but had no desire to wade into a morass of complex equations.

In The Joy of x, Strogatz has done a masterful job as our tour guide through the el
Oct 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I love this book. My only regret is that I couldn't read it in high school, when I was *actually* struggling with math. At this point (having degrees & math & math education & have spent over a decade teaching the subject and/or teachers of it), I read it more from the point of view of, "How could I use pieces of this with students and/or the teachers that I work with?"

In these 30 short essays--a couple of which I had read before in his Time column--Strogatz begins at the beginning (with the con

Jun 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you feel that Mathematics is not for you, please read this book. Strogatz deftly guides the reader through some of the most important ideas in the field, using easily digestible examples. I was able to grasp concepts that eluded me all through graduate school with ease.

Most people think Math is about numbers, but it is much more than that. When used properly it is more akin to a language or a philosophy, a way to understand the world we can see and the many worlds we cannot. Some scenarios ar
Jun 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I wish all math was taught with the passion and insight Strogatz brings to the subject. This was not as fantastic as Infinite Powers, which ended up becoming a favorite book of all time for me, but it made me wish I could go back in time and make all the connections outlined in this book before learning the math taught to me from middle school through college. I spent so much time memorizing. If only I had looked at foci from the point of Luke Skywalker trying to hit Darth Vader with a light sab ...more
Oct 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I applaud you, Stephen Strogatz, for truly putting the joy back in math! My life might have been very different if I had read this book in high school. Biology was my passion, but I avoided the field because of the math courses required for a bachelor of science degree.
My father was a calculus professor and he made math interesting and approachable. He died when I was 13 and afterwards numbers became a challenge because my teachers never explained them with flair and passion. My dad said, "If yo
Wayne McCoy
Aug 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
A wonderful book of short essays displaying the elegance of math in a grand and easily digestible format. This book started life as a series of columns in the New York Times as an introduction to and has been expanded on a bit. Each chapter is the length of a typical column, and while the book is by no means comprehensive, there are copious notes and reading lists in the back should one want to explore topics further.

The book starts with basics like numbers and addition and continues right on to
Sep 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-read
I know what "i" (make that italics) does to something in a practical manner now!!!! Took me twenty-eight years to make it 30 minutes into a book that explained it to me.. but.. I KNOW!! Wooohooooo

Really, I loved reading this book, it was a super fun journey. Now, I'm going to sit down and make a mobius strip with my five-year old daughter!!

(Won this off of Goodreads first reads btw. Going to purchase two more copies for Christmas presents. So fun!)
David Dinaburg
Jan 20, 2013 rated it liked it
Rare is the occasion to have math thrown at your brain in a direct and pedagogical manner after, say, college calculus. The Joy of X is math made quick and fun, replete with dad jokes, groaners that make an appearance at the close of each chapter. Typically, they reference a social touchstone that is out of date or just sort of lame. After a certain point, though, their earnestness infected my mind and I began to unironically enjoy them, even attempting to anticipate when, where, and in what for ...more
kartik narayanan
Apr 25, 2020 rated it liked it
The main premise of the Joy of X is to explain mathematical concepts for adults in a way that they can relate to it to now (as opposed to rote learning in schools). The other premise is to basically answer the question which most adults (who have found maths to be a nightmare) have - why should I learn this topic? I think the book succeeds in some areas while falling flat in others. The Joy of X is a collection of articles written for a magazine about various topics in mathematics. While a few w ...more
Jose Moa
Feb 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mathematics, science
This book, written in a plain and enjoyable form, with humoristic touchs ,is aimed to people with little background in mathematics , but that have some interest in its concepts and play roled in everyday life.
I think that the book fulfil its goals, from elementary arithmetic till goup theory ,crossing by elementary notions of euclidean geometry in special Pitagoras theorem,(it gives two demostrations ,grafic and algebraic),elementary trigonometry (sine function),conics and it properties,a curiou
Aug 31, 2019 rated it it was ok
This book started out so strong, and drew me in. I was excited to be learning about math as an adult - to create a new relationship with it.

But very quickly it became too much for this math-phobe. The gentle guiding ended by being thrown into the deep end with i, and it didn’t get better. I hung in for over 50%. But I hung it up when I admitted to myself I was absorbing nothing.

If you already like math and just wish to get reacquainted, this might be the book for you. For everyone else, it’s a
Apr 12, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Pretty dull. The book's structure parallel's that of a standard math education, and offers little added value. I wanted a greater appreciation of math's beauty, instead I god a folksy re-hash over concepts I was generally aware of, and competent and applying (the exceptions being topology, group theory, the hilbert hotel, and a few other odds and ends).

In the end, it wasn't worth my time.

Disclaimer: I have a math minor, so I know only enough math to be marginally dangerous.

Annie (Sad Water Bottle)
Jul 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Reluctant students and those who have fallen out of touch with mathematics.
4 Stars // 82%
As a fact-based thinker, I've always done fairly well in math. However, I don't think I've ever considered it all that fascinating or a subject to be pondered over deep into the night—until now. Strogatz has opened my mind to a whole new level of thinking, and for that, I am infinitely grateful.
☘Misericordia☘ ⚡ϟ⚡⛈⚡☁ ❇️❤❣
... clue to the ubiquity of e. It ofthen arises when something changes through the cumulative effect of many tiny events.
Apr 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2019, nonfiction
I admit it: I bought Joy of X: A Guided Tour of Math, from One to Infinity for the title, although the concept also engaged me (the joy of it). I love watching people doing anything that they are passionate about: skating and gymnastics during the Olympics, performing, philosophy, science, cooking.

And, apparently, Mathematics. The goal is to give you a better feeling for what math is all about and why it’s so enthralling to those who get it.

As Steven Strogatz said, this is a guided tour, but a
May 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Considering how horrible I am at Calculus, it's surprising how much I enjoyed this book :|

Brilliantly written and covers so many aspects brilliantly, all the way from "kindergarten" math to "University-level" mathematics using a wide variety of interesting examples and tidbits of humour.

The book ended up being a bit of a combination of a mathematics introductory and a refresher course without dumbing anything down or making one feel silly for not previously understanding the topic.

There are also
Rick Davis
Jan 21, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: math, nonfiction
If I could give half stars, this would get 3.5 stars. It was fun to read, but maybe a bit too light and fluffy. I think the purpose of these essays was to skim the surface of a number of ideas though, and the author succeeded at that goal. If you're interested in some different ways to look at math functions, this book is worth the read. ...more
Oct 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A very interesting read.
Zena Ryder
Mar 13, 2016 rated it liked it
This book is about math, but it doesn't have much math in it. So mostly it's pretty easy to read. It must have been very difficult to write about some complex math ideas for non-mathematicians! For the most part, Strogatz does a good job. There were, however, a few parts where I confess I couldn't be bothered to think hard enough to get through the little bit of math there was and I just skimmed those parts. ;) Other times, I felt that Strogatz lingered too long over an easy point. It's probably ...more
Apr 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Some amount of Maths is part of everyone’s life, whether literate, illiterate and/or poor. Basic knowledge of arithmetic is fundamental to livelihood everywhere. Addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division are part of our arsenal. Without a functional command over these basics, we can endanger survival itself. However, beyond it, maths raises anxiety in many of us. Fractions, geometry, calculus and complex numbers appear as if they have nothing much to do with our lives. This is where Dr ...more
Feb 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, math
If Steven Strogatz can't make you fall in love with mathematics, then probably nobody can. I have never studied math after my school but recently my curiosity got better of me and I've been reading about different math and science topics. That is when I stumbled upon this book. In this book, the author strives to communicate what mathematics is about to a set of people who might be otherwise intimidated by the very name of 'math'. The book is divided into six sections - Numbers, Relationships, S ...more
Aug 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mathematics
The Joy of X: A Guided Tour of Math, from One to Infinity by Steven Strogatz

"The Joy of X" is an entertaining introductory guide through the elements of math, from the very basic to the infinity. Professor of Applied Mathematics at Cornell University, Steven Strogatz takes the reader on an amusing ride through some of the more interesting stories behind math concepts. This enjoyable and informative 336-page book is comprised of thirty chapters broken out by the six following main parts: 1. Numbe
Feb 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I definitely comprehended less as the book went on, but that did little to detract from my awe and enjoyment. Especially enjoyed the chapter on mobius strips, but they're always crowd-pleasers. ;) ...more
A great read for anyone who maybe didn’t have the greatest set of math teachers... Or who didn’t listen all that much.
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Steven Strogatz is the Schurman Professor of applied mathematics at Cornell University. A renowned teacher and one of the world’s most highly cited mathematicians, he has been a frequent guest on National Public Radio’s Radiolab. Among his honors are MIT's highest teaching prize, membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a lifetime achievement award for communication of math to ...more

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