Cover Image: Math Without Numbers

Math Without Numbers

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

I’m crap at maths. I don’t mind admitting it, but I love to read about maths and agree with all three statements here in ‘what do mathematicians believe?’ For all my fellow math-phobics I can recommend ‘Math Without Numbers’ by Milo Beckman  Penguin Publishing Group 

You’ll love discovering that a square is a circle in topology ( or an S-one🤩) and did you know there’s a prize to identify how many shapes there are? 

The author (maths prodigy and Harvard student at 15) just makes maths fun.
Was this review helpful?
This is a book for people who like thinking ‘about’ maths. Readers who prefer ‘doing’ maths may well the book a bit frustratingly vague.

The choice of topics was thoughtful and the book did as it promised, exploring them without using numbers. Some of the juxta-positioning of ideas was particularly well done, hitting readers with surprising claims like a circle and a square are the same ‘thing’ in topology (Kindle 3%).

In places I felt that some of the discussions petered out, just as they were getting interesting. The discussion on sizes of infinites and comparisons with manifolds (24%) was good, but it left unaddressed the oddness of infinity. When Cantor published claims about it, fellow mathematicians accused him of abandoning Maths to do Mysticism, instead. It would have been good if the book could have addressed why these kinds of issues were raised by the concept of Infinity.

One of the things which I found a bit off-putting at times was the way the book veered between formal and informal terminology. This was particularly noticeable with the names of mathematicians. For example, Godel is mentioned by name (73%) but then there is a vague reference to intuitionist debates which I assume is the Hilbert Brouwer controversy (69%). I would have preferred a more consistent policy of naming the Mathematicians whose ideas are being discussed. 

Overall I enjoyed the book. It’s a relatively ‘light’ and ‘quick’ read on some interesting and thought provoking topics. I preferred the first half, as the second half felt more disjointed and casual. However the book ended well, linking Maths to the Standard Model in Physics. That was a nice touch showing that Maths can ‘even’ be useful…
Was this review helpful?
Never did I ever think I'd consider the dimensions of personality, or vector maps in my morning coffee, yet here we are. I'm not massively interested in maths (or indeed very good at it) but I wanted to read something different hence I chose "Maths Without Numbers" by Milo Beckman. Some of my favourite parts were the sections about shapes and topology. I enjoyed the analogies throughout (e.g. room allocation at Hotel Infinity). The concept of continuum just about made my head explode. The application of graph theory in social media was particularly informative. Overall an interesting read, accessible to all readers.
Was this review helpful?
Being a musician always somehow meant that I was bad at math and during my school years I have to say that I was. But I always had a love for puzzles -  like crosswords, sudoku, brain teasers - everyting that required brain cells movement. And I realized that I am actually not bad at math, just maybe I needed a different approach.
And that book gives it. It explains shapes, dimensions and even maps. I highly recomend it to everyone who thinks that math is not for them, but as it appears math is everywhere and we can't really escape it. So, enjoy!
Was this review helpful?
Math Without Numbers is an illustrated tour of the structures and patterns we call "math" and a vivid, conversational, and wholly original guide to the three main branches of abstract math—topology, analysis, and algebra—which turn out to be surprisingly easy to grasp. This book upends the conventional approach to math, inviting you to think creatively about shape and dimension, the infinite and infinitesimal, symmetries, proofs, and how these concepts all fit together. What awaits readers is a freewheeling tour of the inimitable joys and unsolved mysteries of this curiously powerful subject. Like the classic math allegory Flatland, first published over a century ago, or Douglas Hofstadter's Godel, Escher, Bach forty years ago, there has never been a math book quite like Math Without Numbers. So many popularizations of math have dwelt on numbers like pi or zero or infinity. This book goes well beyond to questions such as: How many shapes are there? Is anything bigger than infinity? And is math even true?

Milo Beckman shows why math is mostly just pattern recognition and how it keeps on surprising us with unexpected, useful connections to the real world. The ambitions of this book take a special kind of author. An inventive, original thinker pursuing his calling with jubilant passion. A prodigy. Milo Beckman completed the graduate-level course sequence in mathematics at age sixteen, when he was a sophomore at Harvard; while writing this book, he was studying the philosophical foundations of physics at Columbia under Brian Greene, among others. As someone who dislikes maths quite a bit I found this an intriguing concept for a book and thankfully ended up finding it really accessible, understandable and ultimately fascinating. Written in a down to earth fashion, this helps you to see maths from a wholly different angle and allows even me, someone who despised maths as a kid, to find the concepts discussed interesting. A surprisingly engaging read, I urge anyone prone to avoiding the subject to give this a go. Highly recommended.
Was this review helpful?
I'm a maths nerd, some people jump with joy when a favourite author releases a new book. I jumped with joy for a maths book!. Yup maths nerd!
I did plan to read this in the hope I could help my son who is struggling with maths but I don't think he would get it.
So, although my first plan didn't work I did end up reading it myself and I loved it. Fun, quirky and energetically written. I enjoyed reading about the different concepts of shapes and how algebra can be broken down. I did actually learn some new facts and I am confident I can transfer what I've learned to help my son. I liked the idea of maths without numbers, it sounds less scary. 
Maths nerds will love it!
Was this review helpful?