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Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Nice Find

"Regrettably, many of us have never been allowed to see what mathematics is. It has been obscured by pointless emphasis on routines rather than ideas. This failure to distinguish what is important has led many people to see mathematics as a collection of totally arbitrary rules which have to be learnt by rote, and performed with the exactness and precision of a religious rite." --Laurie Buxton

One of the perks of living in a university town is the number of used bookstores around, and used book garage sales through the year. I often find older math book gems at such places, and picked up several at a recent sale. One (I'd never seen before) quickly impressed me as yet another fantastic introduction to math for a young person (middle/high school): "Mathematics For Everyone" by Laurie Buxton, originally published in 1984! I'd never heard of either the book or the author, and only after reading several pages into the volume did I realize it was once again a British writer and publication -- I apologize to my British readers who likely already know of the book and author. It turns out Mr. Buxton died about a decade ago (here's an obituary from the time: http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/2002/jan/15/guardianobituaries.highereducation ).

I've commented previously how many wonderful British explicators of math there are and am convinced this is not an illusion on my part, nor a sampling error -- for their relative population, the Brits just seem to produce more excellent math writers than America! Don't know if this has something to do with the way math is taught in Britain (where there seems to be almost as much math education criticism as in America), or perhaps has more to do with the way writing is taught!?? At any rate, Mr. Buxton's book was a delightful find for $1!

If you have any thoughts on British vs. American math education or writing, or further thoughts on Mr. Buxton, or perhaps just other old unheralded book 'gems' you're fond of, please feel free to comment.


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