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Viewing Life Mathematically

Kim Denley and Mike Hall
Hawkes Learning Systems
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
[Reviewed by
Hannah Robbins
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Viewing Life Mathematically is intended for a college general education math course for students who aren’t required to take statistics or calculus. Its goal is to provide these students with some of the benefits of mathematics, with the clear understanding that the teacher will inevitably face the age-old student question “When will I ever use this in real life?”

From a content perspective, I think this is an excellent book. Its topics range from basic practical skills (ratios, percentages, statistics, problem solving), to real world applications (sports statistics, personal finance, voting), and beyond (graph theory, math in the arts, number theory). These chapters seem relatively independent, so that once through the first chapter the instructor could choose which topics fit best into their course and timeline. The exposition is clear and uncomplicated without coming across as patronizing, and there are many good example and exercises. I particularly like how Chapter 1 isolates problem solving as a separate topic and devotes great care to helping students realize that this is an acquired skill. My one minor quibble here is that the authors place more emphasis on practicality than on fun (at least in earlier chapters).

From an organizational and design perspective, my review is more mixed. I like that each chapter begins with an outline of the topics and objectives ahead and ends with a concise summary of the definitions and formulas covered in each section. However, inside each chapter, I feel the formatting is unhelpful. Each example is indicated with a colored bar, and each “Skill Check” is enclosed in a box. I found that this tended to make my eye go from example to example. This meant I was skipping the explanations of general ideas between the examples — not what one wants students to do! I also would have like the standard introductory format of brief (and separate) overviews for students and instructors. In particular, I wanted to see a clear statement of what earlier material was needed for each chapter.

Overall, I wish I had been an editor instead of a reviewer for this book. With a few simple stylistic tweaks, this would be a great textbook for a general education math course.

Hannah Robbins teaches math at Roanoke College in Virginia. She was previously a post-doc at Wake Forest University where she taught a Math for Liberal Arts class much like the one for which this book was intended.

Chapter 1: Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
1.1 Thinking Mathematically
1.2 Problem Solving: Processes and Techniques
1.3 Estimating and Evaluating
Chapter 2: Set Theory
2.1 Set Notation
2.2 Subsets and Venn Diagrams
2.3 Operations with Sets
2.4 Applications and Survey Analysis
Chapter 3: Logic
3.1 Logic Statements and Their Negations
3.2 Truth Tables
3.3 Logical Equivalence and De Morgan’s Laws
3.4 Valid Arguments and Fallacies
Chapter 4: Rates, Ratios, Proportions, and Percentages
4.1 Rates and Unit Rates
4.2 Ratios
4.3 Proportions and Percentages
4.4 Using Percentages
Chapter 5: The Mathematics of Growth
5.1 The Language of Functions
5.2 Linear Growth
5.3 Discovering Quadratics
5.4 Exponential Growth
5.5 Logarithmic Growth
Chapter 6: Geometry
6.1 Everyday Geometry and Applications
6.2 Circles, Polygons, Perimeter, and Area
6.3 Volume and Surface Area
Chapter 7: Probability
7.1 Introduction to Probability
7.2 Counting Our Way to Probabilities
7.3 Using Counting Methods to Find Probability
7.4 Addition and Multiplication Rules of Probability
7.5 Expected Value
Chapter 8: Statistics
8.1 Collecting Data
8.2 Displaying Data
8.3 Describing and Analyzing Data
8.4 The Normal Distribution
8.5 Linear Regression
Chapter 9: Personal Finance
9.1 Understanding Personal Finance
9.2 Understanding Interest
9.3 Saving Money
9.4 Borrowing Money
Chapter 10: Voting and Apportionment
10.1 How to Determine a Winner
10.2 What’s Fair?
10.3 Apportionment
10.4 Weighted Voting Systems
Chapter 11: The Arts
11.1 Applications of Geometry to the Arts
11.2 Tiling and Tessellations
11.3 Mathematics and Music
Chapter 12: Sports
12.1 Baseball and Softball
12.2 Football
12.3 Basketball
12.4 Additional Sports: Tennis, Golf, and Track & Field
Chapter 13: Graph Theory
13.1 Introduction to Graph Theory
13.2 Trees
13.3 Matchings
13.4 Planar Graphs
Chapter 14: Number Theory
14.1 Prime Numbers
14.2 Modular Arithmetic
14.3 Fermat’s Little Theorem and Prime Testing
14.4 Fermat’s Little Theorem and Public-Key Encryption