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Math with Bad Drawings

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  563 ratings  ·  93 reviews
Smart, hilarious, and engaging, MATH WITH BAD DRAWINGS is a delightful re-education in math that empowers readers with a joyful appreciation and powerful understanding of how math works in our daily lives.
In MATH WITH BAD DRAWINGS, Ben Orlin answers math's three big questions: Why do I need to learn this? When am I ever going to use it? Why is it so hard? The answers
Hardcover, 376 pages
Published September 18th 2018 by Black Dog & Leventhal
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Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
Remember Comicus the "stand up philosopher" in Mel Brooks "History of the World part one". The author using his humor to explain math so well reminds me of the connection between philosophy and humor. His humor is funny but strikes deep notes in mathematics. Philosophy has a bit of the tongue and cheek in it and the author uses it to great effect to demonstrate concepts of mathematics sometimes deep issues in an appealing way with humor. Good stuff.
Athan Tolis
May 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A Pixar movie of a book: the plot is for the kids; the jokes are for the adults.

With that said, the jokes are AWESOME, the little cartoons much better than the title suggests and the (ninth grade) math is explained so well I wish I had this book in ninth grade. Perhaps these days it’s an eighth grade book, I don’t know. (My kids are still too young.)

Also, rather embarrassingly, I LEARNED STUFF FROM HERE. No, I did not learn math. I learned stuff I ought to have figured out for myself but was too
Svitlana Nova
Jan 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
I bought this book for a teenager in my life and decided to read it first to test out the content.

I liked the basic premise of the book: explaining with the help of very basic mathematics and rudimentary but on-point drawings the real world topics/scenarios. You remember the common adage: "I never needed math after I finished school?" - The author begs to differ.

I did find the math too simplified - I personally felt that I could have stomached a lot more advanced math. But I don't believe I was
Kam Yung Soh
Dec 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
An entertaining book on mathematics with, of course, bad drawings (but illuminating ones) that covers several sections of mathematics. Separated into different parts, it can be read at a sitting but I found that to be an overwhelming read, as it is thick with information that needs time to digest. Digging into its sections at leisure would probably be a better way to digest the entertaining and interesting mathematical information provided in the book.

Part One is on how to think like a
Mar 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Fables and math have a lot in common. Both come from dusty, moth-eaten books. Both are inflicted upon children. And both seek to explain the world through radical acts of simplification. If you want to reckon with the full idiosyncrasy and complexity of life, look elsewhere... math makers are more like cartoonists.

Taken as a collection of words, literature is a dataset of extraordinary richness. Then again, take as a collection of words, literature is no longer literature. Statistics works
Cheryl Campbell
Nov 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
As an electrical engineer with a deep love of statistics, I always enjoy reading popular books on mathematics. I particularly love writers that can "infect" the reader with the same joy they find in using basic math principles to make better decisions or to enhance their life (particularly by not being fodder to scams, disinformation, and whatever's in vogue). Mr. Orlin writes just such a book. The writing is energetic, with highly pertinent examples. I felt like he wrote with my worldview.... ...more
Apr 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
It took me a little longer to finish this, but it was not the book's falt at all. The book is very easy to read, you can also read the sections in any order you like. From the first pages I found it quite funny and I never laughed so bad, while reading math books. The author has a great way of making fun of situations, math concepts and society. Moreover, he uses simple vocabulary and all of the mathematical concepts used in the book are explained thoroughly.

In addition to the funny stick man
Jan 07, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: blue
First off, the title is not quite accurate. There is, in fact, a good deal of math (although not that many equations), but the drawings aren't really "bad". They are, to be sure, stick-drawings or the equivalent. But, given that their purpose is to make more clear the math which is being discussed, and given that they succeed at doing that rather well, I think they are more "crude but effective" than "bad". "Math With Crude Drawings" might not have been as snappy a title.

I may not have been the
Donald Hardy
Nov 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fun book. Sometimes funny drawings, frequently helpful drawings. The book has taught me to use my underdeveloped and perhaps non-existent artistic talent to draw or sketch possible thought pictures to visualize math problems, solutions, and procedures.
Sep 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an entertaining and very readable walk through some interesting (and in some cases profound) areas of math. It begins with basic ideas from geometry (and its impact on architecture) and moves on to probability (with links to gambling, insurance, and the economy - including a fascinating discussion about the financial crash of 2008 and the dangers of correlated outcomes) and then statistics (including baseball/"Moneyball", p-hacking in scientific studies, school rankings, and ...more
Aug 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Look, I've been reading Ben's blog for years AND I teach high school math, so I'm a super biased reviewer. But I really enjoyed this and I think you (non-blog reading, high school math teaching person (or not?)) will enjoy it too. Nothing in this gets too deep into the weeds and the topics are broad-ranging enough that you get some insight into a lot of different areas where mathematics plays into our everyday lives. Plus there are bad drawings! Nothing says education like stick figures! (No, ...more
Daniel Weber
Jun 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Great Book. Fun, entertaining and informative.
Bowman Dickson
Nov 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
<3. So many instructional ideas from this, laughed out loud MANY times and just generally appreciated how lucid Ben makes these mathematical ideas.
Frank Roberts
Dec 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Entertaining and educational. Highly recommended for the Probability and Statistics sections especially.
Jeff Lochhead
Jul 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Probably more like a 3.5 stars, but good nonetheless. Glad I choose this one for my annual summer math book read. Covered a number of topics, of which, I was able to indirectly use during a summer school class I was teaching. Wish more depth would have been given topics at end of book. Would definitely read another by Orlin.
Oct 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
You know when you read a really good math book that's hard to put it down? No? You didn't even know those kind of math books existed? Oh but they do! Sure, you'll need at least a little interest in mathematical theory, and definitely a sense of humor, to enjoy this book, but that's all. There is no finding x, figuring out graphs, or wondering why Little Betty is buying 204 watermelons and only giving away 5. It's very much worth a read, often absolutely hilarious, and easily one of my top reads ...more
Dec 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An utterly fabulous read - highly recommended.

This is a book of humor, insight and wry observations not to mention bad mathematical drawings. For those reasons and more it is an easy recommendations.

Who should read it? Everyone. Why? This is a book that opens up slowly taking on gradually more complex topics. What makes it so enjoyable are the real world observations and applications of the mathematics explained.

In many ways no math is required to appreciate this book, the humor and
Feb 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: pleasure, mathematics
I loved the first third of this book. In fact, as a I flip through the table of contents to write this review, I would consider rereading the first 119 pages. I think my favorite bit was the explanation of A4 paper.

However, the final two thirds of the book were devoted to favorite brother and sister subjects of every popular mathematics writer, Probability and Statistics. Is Ben Orlin clever and funny? Yes. Did I laugh at his insurance jokes? Yes. Did I find his explanation of the financial
Jun 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, re-read
I first saw this book at a Barnes and Noble while browsing the science section. The cover demanded that i find a cozy chair and sit down with it so i did. I opened it up to a random page and immediately started laughing. I wonder what people thought as they saw me laughing at a book that is clearly marked "MATH" on the cover.

My favorite chapter is "The 10 people you meet in line for the lottery". At every turn of the page I encountered new stick figures and most of them i know personally. (OK i
Chris Jaffe
Apr 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is entertaining book on math - now there's a sentence I'd never thought I'd use.

Orlin covers lots of ground on math with his bad drawings and easygoing writing style. There are many parts that are interesting and well-done. The chapter on triangles gave me an appreciation for that geometric form - and an awareness of why they're used in construction. My favorite part is when he got a bit philosophical in discussing the differences between math & science and how they view each other.
Oct 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
Placed this into my library queue on a whim after spotting it somewhere on social media. Math's never been my strong suit so from the cover it seemed like it might be one of those things that might make the subject a little less painful for someone who really struggled with it while in school. The idea was to use drawings to explain a lot of common questions: when will I ever use this? How is it applicable in real life? Why is it so hard to learn?

Perhaps I wasn't in the mood or right frame of
Feb 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Ben Orlin, a passionate math teacher, decides to finally explain the world why students should learn math, and he did this in a very entertaining way. Every chapter centers around a different mathematical concept and where you find it "in real life"; for example insurances or making fair dice. The drawings are supporting the explanations very well, or when the explanation is already clear, making the book lighter (not in weight, though, I think it's the heaviest book I've read the past year). At ...more
Jan 16, 2019 added it
WOW. I am wholly unsurprised that I love this book but I am surprised that I cannot even find the words to say just HOW MUCH I loved it.
I’ve been following Ben’s blog for years now and it is that uniquely math humor that just makes me laugh for the rest of the day every time I remember the joke but can’t tell anyone about it because they won’t think it’s funny.
Except in this book, they WILL think it’s funny. I think.
I could literally pick out a chapter in this book that would be fascinating
Jun 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This fun book is a quick and easy read about the beauty of mathematics that is often obscured in the classroom. Orlin has expanded his blog “Math with Bad Drawings” into a full-fledged book, complete with the titular bad drawings of stick figures scaling graphs and grimacing at dice. Orlin explains math in an explorative way you probably didn’t get when you were in school. He starts by describing the mindset of mathematicians before delving into the field itself. Reading this book will give you ...more
The book was a surprise for me. The cute drawings almost deceived me into thinking the book is for kids. I was so wrong. Mathematics and its learnings are universal. Math is a powerful tool to build models in our minds and make powerful insights, interpretations, and predictions.

What is math? What defines good math? What is the difference between math and science? What shape makes a stable structure? Why the elephant's legs are thick? What makes a good die? How do probability and statistics
Jan 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
I bought this on a whim on sale. It bills itself as a book that addresses how mathematicians think about math. It’s approachable and good humored. I covers some basics from statistics, economics, geometry, etc. but not from an equation, problem-solving perspective, but from a conceptual perspective. I didn’t really learn much new sinc I’ve studied most of what he talked about at a college level, but it was a nice refresher and did a good job and reviewing at a high level. I’m not sure who the ...more
Sep 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is an enjoyable book. I took it from the library expecting to read a few sections, and ended up reading it cover to cover. Orlin is knowledgeable about a surprising number of mathematical topics, applications, and folklore; and his writing style is terrific. I got the most out of part 1, in which he gives his view of what it means to think mathematically - I found his perspective to be fresh, without departing too significantly from what I would expect.

As the book progressed, I'll confess
Phil Lawless
Jun 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: physics, science
I bought this book on the basis of a review in Science magazine. It is a big book, 367 pages. It is also meticulously printed, with color coded sections, an innovative pagination, and well-reproduced sketches by the author (I presume.) The book presents topics of mathematics in a very casual way, talking about mathematicians, ideas, aspects that are important, others that seem rather trivial. The author is a teacher and gives credits to some students who grasped what he was trying to teach them ...more
Feb 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
My math professor son gave me this book for Christmas. He met the author and also thought I would enjoy it. I read a few scenarios every few days and I liked learning and reinforcing some math from past years with the stories and drawings. I read about the meaning of math, what a good versus great mathematician does, the basics of lottery play, and many other math concepts. I think my favorite chapter was early in the book, "The Square-Cube Fables." Here I could really relate to why big pans ...more
Jan 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The book does not teach math but presents math in different contexts to help the reader appreciate math. For example, it touches upon lotteries, insurance, genes, 2008 financial crash (yes, indeed!), batting averages, p-hacking (oh yeah!), school ranking, pricing, tax brackets, US election (really?), and also machine learning (kinda) while trying to illustrate how match was (ab)used in these contexts.

The book provides a practical perspective about math to a reader who is starting to learn about
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