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Mathematics in Everyday Life

John Haigh
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
[Reviewed by
James Valles Jr.
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The title is certainly eye-catching, especially for those looking for a mathematics book that can be relatable to students. What readers will find in Mathematics in Everyday Life is a collection of chapters devoted to what are truly everyday items one encounters in life (albeit some maybe more than others).
The author, John Haigh, is certainly aware of the limitations of such a book, and he admits this book is but a representative sample of applications viewed from a mathematical lens. Even this is instructive because the material provided covers such a wide range of topics that it should spark the imagination of any industrious instructor to seek out and create their own work that could easily be a personal supplement for what this book provides. 
Each of the eight chapters are relatively independent of each other, covering topics ranging from money, sports and games, the social sciences (especially the mathematics of voting), and computer applications. A good number of well-written examples are provided and form the bulk of the material for each chapter.
One of the things I found refreshing about this book is that, while rigorous, it is written with few formal theorems and proofs. The author suggests an appreciation for formal proof is necessary at some point in a student’s mathematical studies, and the book is written to incorporate that level of writing without using the formal “Theorem-Proof” structure many students confront in a mathematics text. Being rigorous in nature as well as approachable is a fine balancing act, and the author has done a commendable job.
According to the “Preface to the First Edition” (the book reviewed here is the Second Edition), this textbook is written for the student who has “a background roughly equivalent to single-subject Mathematics at A-level in the UK.” In trying to place where I would use this book, it feels appropriate (at my institution) as a senior-level course textbook, such as for a Special Topics course. The idea of a Special Topics course, based on this book, seems apparent based on the content of the book.
The chapters represent a wide span of topics which may catch some students off-guard due to their practicality. The chapter on money, which focuses on topics such as investing, interest rates, mortgage repayments, and annuities, certainly lends itself to individual projects students can apply to their everyday or future lives. While I found the chapter devoted to sports and games fascinating (there was certainly more thought put into the design of a dart board than I have ever considered) I could see, at least for an American audience, where interest in rugby might be a tough sell. The material devoted to social sciences (especially the mathematics of voting) and computer applications are great additions toward interdisciplinary interests.
Other than for a class of advanced mathematics students, this book strikes me as not being appropriate for beginning American undergraduates, and this is not said condescendingly. The background calculus, linear algebra, and differential equation content necessary would not be part of the typical high school US curriculum. The primary audience for this book, from the author’s point-of-view, is a beginning student in the UK, and this UK-centric focus is evident in many of the topics discussed (“lawn tennis,” the game show “Golden Balls”). The textbook, though, does not revolve around exclusively British topics. This book would make for an engaging class, as the mathematics, the applications (e.g., darts, roulette), and social science topics (“which voting system would be the best?”) would generate lively discussion and allow for the mathematics to be studied rigorously and enjoyed in a fun manner.


James Valles, Jr. ( is an Associate Professor of Mathematics at Prairie View A&M University in Prairie View, TX. He is currently an associate editor for Applications and Applied Mathematics: An International Journal.