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Click here for Magical Maze by Ian Stewart The Magical Maze, by Ian Stewart

A very readable guide through the mathematics maze.
The maths of nature, the maths of computers, the maths of chance, chaos explained and even how best to tie your shoelace.
Prof Ian Stewart is the maths teacher you always wanted and never got.
Maths for those who, wrongly, think maths is not for them.
This book is based on Ian Stewart’s 1997 contribution to the annual Royal Institution Christmas lectures for young people.
Easy to read at any level. If the maths gets a bit too detailed... just skip onto the next bit. It still all hangs together.
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Click here for A Biography of the World’s Most Mysterious Number by Alfred S Posamentier and Ingmar Lehmann Pi A Biography of the World’s Most Mysterious Number by Alfred S Posamentier and Ingmar Lehmann

A great book for anyone who is simply curious about the magical number number, π… through to the serious mathematician.
You can dip in and out of this book at whatever you choose, from what is π, to π curiosities, to the paradoxical, to the historical to the full blown geniuses method for finding the value of π.
Pi has fascinated and challenged peoples across the globe from the earliest of times. The history and development of mathematics in all societies can be charted by the quest to find the value of π to ever more decimal places.
The story of π is a human tale of passion, obsession, inquiry… as well as the mathematical tale of the ratio between the circumference of a circle and its diameter.
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Click here for From Here to Infinity by Ian Stewart From Here to Infinity, by Ian Stewart

The mathematicians’ version of From Here to Eternity.
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Click here for Mathematical Circus by Martin Gardner Mathematical Circus, by Martin Gardner

One of Martin Gardner’s delightful collection of puzzles, games, paradoxes and mathematical entertainments from one of the greatest popular writers on maths. Based on his classic series of columns in Scientific American by this amateur conjurer, humorist, musician, computer scientist and highly respected mathematician.
Find out about thinking machines, random motion, rabbit breeding and the solar system using dollar bills, abacuses, toothpicks and matches.
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Click here for Penrose Tiles to Trapdoor Ciphers by Martin Gardner Penrose Tiles to Trapdoor Ciphers, by Martin Gardner

More from Martin Gardner.
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Click here for My Best Mathematical and Logical Puzzles by Martin Gardner My Best Mathematical and Logic Puzzles, by Martin Gardner

Yet more from Martin Gardner. Any of these anthologies are worth sampling. After all his column was published monthly from 1957 to 1982.
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Click here for The Colossal Book of Mathematics by Martin Gardner The Colossal Book of Mathematics, by Martin Gardner

The definitive anthology big book of entertaining maths from Martin Gardner. Expensive, so try out one of the paperbacks above first.
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Click here for Fermat’s Last Theorem by Simon Singh Fermat’s Last Theorem, by Simon Singh

The story of the maths riddle that confounded the world’s greatest minds for 358 years. An exciting detective story, a story of silly people and clever people, of greed, avarice and sobre dedication.
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Click here for The Mathematical Universe by William Dunham The Mathematical Universe, by William Dunham

An alphabetical journey through the great proofs, problems and personalities. Lots of quirky anecdotes and amusing asides.
A very readable guide through the history and personalities of the world of maths.
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Click here for The Language of Mathematics by Keith Devlin The Language of Mathematics, by Keith Devlin

A great introduction to mathematics, pointing to the beauty of maths and its usefulness. An ideal first read.
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Click here for Mathematical Scandals by Theoni Pappas Mathematical Scandals, by Theoni Pappas

An entertaining brief history of the real people in mathematics... their rivalries, crimes, obsessions, jealousies. The National Inquirer of maths.
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Click here for How To Solve It by G Polya How To Solve It, by G Polya

A classic which gets repeated recommendations as the book to give anyone showing an interest in problem solving and maths.
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Click here for Isaac Newton The Last Sorcerer by Michael White Isaac Newton, The Last Sorcerer by Michael White

A highly readable biography of one of the greatest mathematical and scientific minds in history... complete with human foibles, warts and all.
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Click here An Imaginary Tale: The Story of i by Paul Nahin An Imaginary Tale by Paul Nahin

The history of the number that doesn’t exist, the square root of minus 1... but is vital to all maths.
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Click here for To Infinity and Beyond by Eli Maor To Infinity and Beyond, by Eli Maor

Leaves Buzz Lightyear falling... with style.
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Click here for The Man Who Knew Infinity by Robert Kanigal The Man Who Knew Infinity, by Robert Kanigal

A story of Ramanujan, the Madras railway clerk who was one of the greatest of all mathematicians. Ever.
With a failed formal education Ramanujan invented his own maths symbols and ways of working, wrote little down, but opened up much of modern maths with his genius, before dying lonely and unhappy in Cambridge in his early 30s. It is still a scandal that neither the Cambridge nor Madras universities has yet to honour the memory of this intriguing mathematician who ate only lentils and who worshipped the ancient Indian goddess Namijira.
An inspirational tale of general interest, but of interest to all mathematicians of whatever ability.
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Radical Equations: math literacy and civil rights Radical Equations: Math Literacy and Civil Rights, by Robert Moses and Charles Cobb

Bob Moses’s work to organise black voters in Mississippi in the early 1960s famously transformed the political power of black communities in the USA. Nearly 40 years later, Moses is organising again, this time as the founder of a national US maths literacy programme called The Algebra Project. Through personal narrative and impassioned argument, Moses teaches the lessons of the civil rights era and shows them at work in a remarkable movement today, where students and communities are demanding maths literacy education as a key to economic equality and equal citizenship. Contains possibly the best argument available on the need to urgently build a culture of math literacy for our children... both in the UK as well as the USA. An inspirational read.
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Click here for The Code Book by Simon Singh The Code Book by Simon Singh

A readable history of codes and cyphers, those who made them and those who battled to break them from Mary Queen of Scots, the brilliant Arab philosopher al-Kindi through to the Pole Marian Rejewski and Alan Turing who broke the Enigma code. A fascinating history of intrigue, espionage, secrecy and a tale of maths in action, well within the reach of any interested secondary school student.
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Click here for The Oxford mathematics Study Dictionary The Oxford Mathematics Study Dictionary

Highly recommended. The best all round maths dictionary, helped with double-page spreads and colour.
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Click here for the Penguin Dictionary of Mathematics edited by David Nelson The Penguin Dictionary of Mathematics

The Penguin dictionary. More advanced than the Oxford version, suitable for advanced students.
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Some more good reads

More books, yet to be reviewed
Click here for Euclid: The 13 Books of the Elements by Sir Thomas L Heath
Click for Euclid's Window by Leonard Mlodinow
Click here for Symmetry by Hermann Weyl
Click here for Euler: The Master of us all by William Dunham
Click here for The Men of Mathematics by Eric Temple Bell
Click here for the Riddle of Scherazade: And Other Amazing Puzzles, Ancient and Modern
Click here for The Nothing That Is by Robert Kaplan
Click here for The Zen of Magic Squares by Clifford Pickover
Click for Journey Through Genius: The Great Mathematical Theorems by William Dunham
Click for Trigonometric Delights by Eli Maor
Click here for The Man Who Loved Only Numbers by Paul Hoffman
Click here for The Two Cultures by CP Snow
Click here for a Mathematician's Apology by GH Hardy
Click here for The Joy of Pi by David Blatner
Click here for A Course in Pure Mathematics by GH Hardy
Click here for The Kingdon of Infinite Number, a Field Guide by Bryan Bunch
Click here Longitude by Dava Sobel
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Language Barrier with Orange, 2005, by Mary Henry
MARY HENRY, whose abstract art is a particular delight for lovers of geometry, has died aged 96.
An exhibition of her work can be seen at PDX Contemporary Art, 925 NW Flanders, Portland, OR 97209 until the end of May.

New biggest prime found


The biggest prime number yet has been found with some 12,978,189 digits. It would fill nearly 20 paperbacks if printed out.

It's also the 45th known Mersenne prime, a rare sort of prime written as a power of 2 subtract 1: 243,112,609 − 1.

That's 2 multiplied by itself 43,112,609 times and then subtract 1.

A prime number can only be divided by the number 1 and itself — it has only two factors.

The discovery by the UCLA math department qualified for a $100,000 award for the first prime of more than 10 million digits.

It was discovered using software from the Greater Internet Mersenne Prime Search — GIMPS — that allows anyone with a PC or laptop to help search for the next largest prime.

This new big prime was discovered in August 2008. Just two weeks later another — smaller — 46th Mersenne prime was discovered near Cologne, Germany: 2 37,156,667 − 1. It has a mere 11,185,272 digits.

Mersenne primes were first discovered by the French monk and mathematician Marin Mersenne more than 300 years ago.

Searching for primes was the sort of thing maths people did for fun, they still do. But now super-big primes are vital in internet and banking security as well as writing ultra-secret codes.

Mathematicians know there are an infinite number of primes. They think there an infinite number of Mersenne primes, but the conjecture has yet to be proved.
Copyright David Whitfield, The PiFactory, 2002-2010 + Email: davidwhitfield AT pifactory.net. Designed + produced by David Whitfield