Thinking in Numbers

Daniel Tammet
Reviewed by Alicia Crane

Daniel Tammet shares a historical, linguistic and sociological look into the world of mathematics through 24 rich and detailed essays that offer perspective on the way we make meaning of our lives through mathematics. The language, patterns and concepts of mathematics are explored, truly illuminating the prevalence of math in our lives and challenging our reliance on common understanding. Each essay explores a different concept within mathematics and offers a refreshing perspective on the origin of a variety of concepts, such as a look into “Shakespeare’s Zero.” The language of mathematics is explored in a number of different ways, including essays about “Counting to Four in Icelandic” and “Shapes of Speech.” Tammet cleverly provides the historical and linguistic background of ideas often overlooked in everyday use of numbers. The complexity and diversity that exists within mathematics is highlighted by the ideas of measuring sand, counting by 11 and the number pi. Educators can appreciate the critical consideration of mathematics from across a multitude of disciplines, encouraging thought and appreciation of how mathematics exists in all aspects of life. Educators can benefit from a better understanding of how the origins of mathematics concepts can allow for more effective explanations of their meanings.

Thinking in Numbers is an interesting and thought-provoking ideas surrounding mathematics detailed in each essay. The heavy historical and sociological content of some essays made it difficult to stay engaged, however overall there is a thorough and interesting collection of incidences of mathematics in our lives.