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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

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  478 ratings  ·  47 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 thi
Kindle Edition, 223 pages
Published April 2nd 2014 by Pavilion Books (first published March 29th 1999)
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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 s
Aug 15, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
“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
Athan Tolis
Mar 27, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.

Apr 28, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Shelves: math
Case applying mathematics to familiar everyday life
May 29, 2017 rated it it was ok
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.
Jake Maddocks
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  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.
Edward Pan
Jun 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
maths book. nice!
Aug 24, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pretty much of the same vibe as the other one.
Sahar Sabati
May 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Maurizio Codogno
Primo libro di una serie piuttosto fortunata (in Italia sono stati tradotti dalle edizioni Dedalo, questo in particolare col titolo Probabilità, numeri e code, vedi ) questo testo vuole raccontare, come dice il suo sottotitolo, la matematica nascosta nella vita di tutti i giorni. I primi capitoli del libro sono un po' deboli, ma poi gli autori ingranano e il risultato è davvero piacevole, sia per lo stile di scrittura con il famoso humour britannico che p ...more
Wayne McCoy
Jun 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
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  ·  review of another edition
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 rare
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
Jun 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, maths
Great little book introducing and explaining fascinating maths concepts and theories. Entertaining and accessible to anyone. My only complaint is a couple of places where the maths is brushed over or ignored on the way to an equation or result. Perhaps if the writers were afraid mathematical derivations would make the book less easy to read these could have be included in an appendix for those of us interested in how to get to the result? But overall a brilliant read.
Jun 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed reading this book very much. This was not only because it made me think about different Maths problems, but also because it allowed me to see how different everyday events can be described in equations. I loved the final chapter about Maths and magic tricks and I fully endorsed the closing remark about Maths, i.e. that it is not about calculations, but about noticing patterns and asking yourself why they occur. :)
Crazily fun and exhilarating, solves a whole bunch of every day problems and clarifies matters that have bugged me my whole life. I now understand traffic, why two people in a room of 30 will share a birthday, why the London Underground design is ingenious, how pi and e and phi can be applied constantly, and of course, why it's efficient to start the shower before disrobing instead of vice-versa. Life-changing eye-opener to say the least.
Dec 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love reading and can often be found with my head in a book, although I tend to stick to fiction books, therefore I was worried I would find a non-fiction maths book uninteresting. However, this book completely changed my opinion...

Read more of my review at:
Feb 18, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: math
Interesting read. Got lost with some of the Maths. Nevertheless, It's interesting to see how Maths is applied in every day life, although I feel that some of the examples in the book are more observations. Having said that, wonder if more daily examples could be used and see how Maths could be applied.
Paolo Irrera
Apr 14, 2015 rated it liked it
A funny book. If you work with maths, you will probably appreciate the ability of the writer in addressing complex subjects in a clear way.
Although, I am not sure that someone who does not understand or rather like maths will enjoy the reading.
Sudar Muthu
Feb 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
The major thing that I learned from this book is that some times common sense (or intuition) may not be correct. It is either your brain trying to do an approximation (and failing miserably) or some clever marketer who is using statistics to lie to you
Shallowreader VaVeros
 This book is on maths in nature and the built environment. I really enjoyed the 3 chapters I got to read but I had to return it before I completed it. I will definitely be borrowing it to finish it. Great read!
Jay Curtin
Jan 24, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
this was set in a patronising tone that made it boring & oversimplified
also I couldn't figure out the target audience, but I knew most of the problems that came up
Oct 04, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Entertaining read for people who fear math or have been away from it for a long time.
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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