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The Magic of Math: Solving for X and Figuring Out Why

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  511 ratings  ·  47 reviews
The world's greatest mental mathematical magician takes us on a spellbinding journey through the wonders of numbers (and more)

"Arthur Benjamin ... joyfully shows you how to make nature's numbers dance."--Bill Nye (the science guy)

The Magic of Math is the math book you wish you had in school. Using a delightful assortment of examples-from ice-cream scoops and poker hands to
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published September 8th 2015 by Basic Books (first published September 1st 2015)
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Brendan Yes it can be. Not from an instruction standpoint but from opening up the world of math to them.The book shows the beauty and some of the applications…moreYes it can be. Not from an instruction standpoint but from opening up the world of math to them.The book shows the beauty and some of the applications of math so it would be most helpful for those bright students who seem to be not interested.(less)

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Sep 14, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
My star rating is 5 raised to the power of 0 or 1 raised to the power of negative 1.

I generally read nonfiction and my typical goals are to be entertained and to learn something. This book delivered neither. The author's enthusiasm was nice at first but it quickly became annoying ("By becoming more familiar with the beautiful patterns that emerge when numbers dance, we have a better chance of finding a beautiful answer to this question.") and overwhelming. Imagine someone teaching you to play Ro
Jul 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
To a not-so-talented amateur who is from a “pre-pocket calculator” generation, it is not a given that you may be an expert or lover of mathematics; one can imagine that things have not improved with successive generations, where everything can be answered at the touch of a button.

As long as you know what buttons to press, that is. Yet something like this book can light a fire in your mind. You can temporarily forget that it may be full of confusing, difficult-looking symbols and theory. There wi
C.P. Cabaniss
Apr 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, reviewed
*I received this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.*

I really enjoyed this book. There's a lot of interesting math that's explored. I do think this would probably be most interesting to people who already know quite a bit of math, but there is something here for everyone.

I've always enjoyed puzzles (that's what got me interested in math) so I liked seeing the patterns and puzzles within the math.

Full review will be up on my blog September 8th: http://courtneysreads.blogspo
A Reader's Heaven
Aug 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
(I received a free copy of this book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.)

The Magic of Math is the math book you wish you had in school. Using a delightful assortment of examples, from ice cream scoops and poker hands that teach you factorials to mnemonics that help you memorize pi, this book empowers you to see the beauty, simplicity, and fun behind those formulas and equations that once left your head spinning. You’ll learn the key ideas of classic areas of mathematics like arithm
Brian Clegg
There are broadly three types of popular maths. There are books like A Brief History of Infinity which introduce mathematical concepts and history without actually doing any maths - and these can be fascinating. There are books of recreational maths, like Martin Gardner's classic Mathematical Puzzles and Diversions, or Ian Stewart's Cabinet of Mathematical Curiosities, which explore the weird and wonderful of maths, with a need for a bit of practical working out, but almost always provide plenty ...more
Jun 24, 2016 rated it liked it
This book is definitely written for the reader who has an interest in math, but may not remember a lot of what they learned in school. For me, the first few chapters dragged, then the interest picked up once the author moved past arithmetic, then it lagged again once he got to calculus, and then finally picked up once again in the final chapter. There were some new and interesting ideas presented, and there were some proofs of some ideas that I've read about ut haven't followed up on that I appr ...more
Julie Brock
Yyyyyyeah, not for the lay person. :)
Jan 27, 2016 rated it liked it
I found several parts of the book to be very entertaining and worthy of all the introductory comments by the author in regards to the book being accessible to all. However, there were too many chapters that were too much like the normal high school curriculum. Being one of those math teachers, I find this material to be interesting, but know that there are many people that would not be as enthralled.
Nov 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Usually for math, for most, is either a hit or a miss for people. Some people love math and some people hate it. If you love math this book is definitely for you. Arthur Benjamin does a great job on this book making it interesting all the way through. He mixed in personal experiences and packed it full of cool tips tricks. The tricks involve the “magic” of math this book is based on and you can use them to trick your friends and teachers. Aside from the tips and tricks there are small lessons in ...more
Richard Fried
Nov 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I read most of the reviews on here, but I think a good majority of them have missed the overall purpose of the book. If you expect a few hundred pages full of quick tricks and tips for math this probably isn't for you (check out his previous book for that). The content in here is in greater depth than that as it goes into proofs and shows how all the ideas in mathematics untimely connect together. Most have never seen this connected view of math because in school, we're never really taught it. ...more
May 26, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an ok math book for a non-maths person. I could follow most of the logic, and about half of the higher level math jargon and notation, but there were a few things that author assumed I knew that really obscured some of his points because I didn’t know them. Made me wish I had kept going with math in high school and college instead of just taking the required courses, but life choices are life choices (you have to live with them).

Now that I’ve read the book, I want to explore some of the
Sep 12, 2018 rated it liked it
I'm going to review this book in two parts. Before chapter 8, it had some fun tips and tricks and some interesting math ideas. That being said, I hated--HATED--that he would say "here's a really easy way to explain this concept. Got it so far? Great. Here, let me vomit some incredibly complex explanations now. Still with me? No? But come on, I told you, this math is so easy." Thank you for making me feel dumber than I usually do about math.

But then, then we got to chapter 8. And after that, I r
May 03, 2017 rated it it was ok
This is an interesting crash course / miscellany / compilation of some of the most basic "pretty" features math has. It would probably be interesting and enjoyable to a non mathematician, and I think Benjamin does a great job of keeping the explanations accessible to people who might be uncomfortable with highly academic vocabulary or extensive explanations. He includes slightly more in depth explanations or examples in grey boxes throughout, which he makes clear it is ok to skip if you aren't i ...more
Chris Moran
Nov 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
This starts off with a good deal of "magical" properties and mathematical occurrences. As the book progresses it feels a lot more like an abridged trip through a series of high school math classes. This isn't a complaint. As a high school math teacher, I quite enjoyed the read and in fact came away with some idea to use in class. The entire trig chapter could nearly cover what our current standards expect, to some extent, in Algebra 2.
I don't know that someone not interested in math would get mu
May 01, 2021 rated it liked it
This book was a fun read, but about half of the way through the math got too challenging for my brain to handle for before-bedtime reading. That said, it was enjoyable, and the author clearly LOVES math, so it's hard not to enjoy it, even if I skimmed or even skipped over some of the proofs when I got to the calculus section... I'll be keeping this book handy as a reference as my kids advance in their own mathematical journeys! ...more
Jan 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book! The jokes.... OH THE LAME JOKES!! They’re painfully humorous! It reads very well. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I know I’ll look through this book again to write down all the mathematical goodies I found. Thank you, Dr Benjamin and everyone involved in making this book.
Marlo Goff
Feb 27, 2019 rated it it was ok
This was a hard one for me to get through and I think I only fully understood bits and pieces of it. I thought the writing was as fun as writing about math can be and did enjoy learning about some of the different patterns found in mathematics.
Jul 17, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: popsugar-2019
I probably would have enjoyed this more if I'd read a physical copy not the ebook, as there were formatting issues. ...more
Jason Grabner
Dec 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Great way to make math more accessible to all people. Loved the examples.
Jun 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
I am not a math genius.

Math and I never really got along.

So when I started reading "The Magic of Math" I was a little skeptical, curious, and daunted. I wasn't sure that I was going to like a math book, and I read books about almost anything.

But this isn't just a math book. This isn't a text book like you had in school. This breaks down the more, well, magical side of math and numbers. The chapters are divided into different topics and areas of math such as: the magic of numbers, counting, 9, p
Aug 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
To say my math skills are severely limited (I wasn’t able to take classes beyond first year algebra and plain geometry) would be an understatement. But I have a nephew, Elijah, who recently turned nine who knows more than I ever did and, probably, more than most adults I know. When he goes to a friend’s house and brings something to play with, it’s usually a math book. When I saw a blurb for THE MAGIC OF MATH by Arthur Benjamin, I thought he might find it challenging and interesting. I don’t kn ...more
Sep 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The Magic of Math is an exceptionally fine entry in the pop math literature. One often encounters the same ideas in these sorts of books -- old sows in new sties (or however Garrison Keiler might put it were this a folksy book review broadcast on Prairie Home Companion). Not so TMoM. Benjamin packs an enormous amount of interesting, entertaining, and -- at times -- quite challenging math into this charmingly written book. Benjamin writes as I imagine he teaches. His is precisely that mix of wide ...more
Tom Schulte
Jun 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 51x-maa-reviews
In 2010, I was intrigued and entertained by this author’s appearance and display of calculation gymnastics on The Colbert Report. In more recent years, I found his Joy of Mathematics course, a series of twenty-four half-hour lectures, rich source material for my lectures to first-year college students. I was immensely please to learn that elements of that course along with tricks of the stage used by this “mathemagician” (a title previously held by Benjamin’s inspiration Martin Gardner) were com ...more
Terry Barker
Mar 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is one of those rare books that makes a technical subject interesting, but not only for the nontechnical average Joe, but also for those who are very comfortable with math. So, why would someone like me, who majored in math, find another math book interesting? Because it ties together the different branches of math and brings them together in a fun way. Like tying probability to an ice cream shop. By showing how adding numbers together (Fibonacci sequence) can lead to the number e. In other ...more
Arun Mahendrakar
Jul 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The book starts with some really amazing patterns with addition of integers - something I never knew, but then there are so many things in math that I'm new to. The author provides many tricks that I did during my school days. Some chapters begin with questions and the solution described in the book was simpler than the one I chose.

The discussion about Combinations and Permutations are very well explained. The author divulges the hidden magic among Pascal's triangle and Fibonacci series.

The int
Feb 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I hate math with a passion. I always tell my kids that I have a degree in English for a reason. That being said, when a friend recommended this book to help my son in math, I thought it couldn't hurt. He loves magic, after all. I found myself actually reading the book after my son used one of the tricks in the algebra section on me.

I actually found it very interesting. Mr. Benjamin doesn't assume that everyone reading this book is a math lover, but rather, makes it fun for anyone. The forward le
Larry Scheckel
Aug 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Benjamin employs experiences from everyday life. This is the kind of math book that adults wish they had when they were kids. The book has something for everyone and is a good resource for teacher and student. The book has 12 broad topics and the graphics are excellent. The author, Arthur Benjamin, draws the reader in and takes the reader behind the scenes, as if you are getting a special peek that no one else is allowed to have. There is an emphasis on the importance of math in everyday life.
Sep 12, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
Meh. Not nearly as interesting as I hoped. It does have a lot of mathematical "tricks" in it (of the 'take a number, add X, multiply by your original number, etc., the answer is always 9' variety) but none that I found truly interesting. It was a nice review of algebra, trig, geometry, and calc that I hadn't thought about for years - but not entertaining. ...more
Jan 09, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: physics
Just not very interesting. It's an incredibly dry read. I get it; math is dry. But for a book that promises to make a dry subject entertaining, it fails. I honestly cannot say any of the "tricks" are very memorable or useful. The author clearly has a passion for the subject but I fear his mathematical genius does not easily transfer from author to reader. ...more
Neeti Sinha
Aug 14, 2016 rated it liked it
Grabbed it at the Book Expo 2016, based on the reviews by the leading mathematicians and his TED talk that I had earlier watched. It is a fun book of the fabric and spin of mathematics--the things we don't commonly encounter in text books. Especially good for those curious about math and haven't gotten the taste of this language. And it could be enticing for young readers too. ...more
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Arthur Benjamin holds a PhD from Johns Hopkins University and is a professor of mathematics at Harvey Mudd College, where he has taught since 1989. He is a noted “mathemagician,” known for being able to perform complicated computations in his head. He is the author, most recently, of The Secrets of Mental Math, and has appeared on The Today Show and The Colbert Report. Benjamin has been profiled i ...more

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