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Mathematician's Delight

W. W. Sawyer
Dover Publications
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
[Reviewed by
P. N. Ruane
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Originally published in 1943, and reprinted on numerous occasions, this classic was out of print for some years. Dover reprinted it in 2007, following it, more recently, with a reprint of the sequel, Prelude to Mathematics. The two books jointly formed an inspirational starting point into mathematics for many people in the 1950s and 1960s.

This particular book is specifically designed to correct many of the negative pre-conceptions of mathematics that have been engendered by traditional curricula and rigid teaching methods. Many of us remember that techniques were taught with no obvious application. Rules were given with no clue as to their origin, and mathematics seemed to offer little scope for the formulation of an individual point of view. Moreover, too many teachers presented the subject in an historical vacuum, and many students (even those who mastered the techniques they were taught) had little idea that mathematics even had a history.

In Mathematician’s Delight, W. W. Sawyer reconstructs much of the mathematics that is taught up to high school level. He adopts a questioning approach throughout and he builds upon the readers′ experience of real life situations to which mathematics may be applicable. Generally speaking, the whole book consists of an imaginative re-examination of fairly traditional ideas, and he engages the reader in mathematical thought. I am happy that Dover Books has re-issued it alongside the companion volume!

Peter Ruane’s career was centred upon primary and secondary mathematics education.

The table of contents is not available.