Talking (or writing) about math in an interesting, engaging way is hard. It’s also something that is very important. Math is more important now than ever before but we haven’t changed the way we teach it in decades.

That’s why it’s a pleasure to find a book like Good Math by Mark C. Chu-Carroll. As a self-described ‘geeky kid’, Chu-Carroll took an interest in the work that his father, a physicist, would bring home from work. This started Chu-Carroll’s life-long love of math and inspired him to create the blog Good Math/Bad Math. Good Math (the book) is his attempt to bring his love of math to a wider audience.

One of the qualities that makes this book a delight is that you don’t need much more than high school algebra to follow along. (Naturally, the more math background you have, the more you’ll get out of it.) In addition, you don’t need to read the entire book in sequence. It’s designed for you to dip in at any point, find something that catches your eye and then move on. Some sections refer to other parts of the book but you can follow them or not as you wish. In addition, some sections include computer code if you want to extend yourself and experiment a little bit.

The writing is friendly and accessible, with plenty of diagrams and examples. The book is divided into six parts: Numbers, Funny Numbers, Writing Numbers, Logic, Sets and Mechanical Math. Chu-Carroll presents a broad look at the foundations of modern mathematics. I recommend this book to anyone who likes a good casual read that makes you smarter.

I’d also like to take a moment to give a shout-out to The Pragmatic Bookshelf. I’ve loved their stuff since reading The Pragmatic Programmer and they’ve only gotten better with their expansion into e-books. As you might expect, most of their publications are aimed at programmers but they have content aimed at beginners as well as books to help you ‘take care of your body and expand your mind’.

(Chu-Carroll, M. C. (2013). Good math: A geek’s guide to the beauty of numbers, logic, and computation. Dallas, TX: Pragmatic Programmers.)

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