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The Best Writing on Mathematics


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Table of Contents

Introduction Mircea Pitici xi Mathematics and Teaching, Hyman Bass 1 In Defense of Pure Mathematics, Daniel S. Silver 17 G. H. Hardy: Mathematical Biologist, Hannah Elizabeth Christenson and Stephan Ramon Garcia 27 The Reasonable Ineffectiveness of Mathematics, Derek Abbott 32 Stacking Wine Bottles Revisited, Burkard Polster 48 The Way the Billiard Ball Bounces, Joshua Bowman 66 The Intersection Game, Burkard Polster 77 Tonight! Epic Math Battles: Counting vs. Matching, Jennifer J. Quinn 86 Mathematicians Chase Moonshine's Shadow, Erica Klarreich 96 The Impenetrable Proof, Davide Castelvecchi 105 A Proof That Some Spaces Can't Be Cut, Kevin Hartnett 114 Einstein's First Proof, Steven Strogatz 122 Why String Theory Still Offers Hope We Can Unify Physics, Brian Greene 132 The Pioneering Role of the Sierpinski Gasket, Tanya Khovanova, Eric Nie, and Alok Puranik 140 Fractals as Photographs Marc Frantz 149 Math at the Met, Joseph Dauben and Marjorie Senechal 155 Common Sense about the Common Core, Alan H. Schoenfeld 187 Explaining Your Math: Unnecessary at Best, Encumbering at Worst, Katharine Beals and Barry Garelick 196 Teaching Applied Mathematics, David Acheson, Peter R. Turner, Gilbert Strang, and Rachel Levy 203 Circular Reasoning: Who First Proved that C Divided by d Is a Constant? David Richeson 224 A Medieval Mystery: Nicole Oresme's Concept of Curvitas, Isabel M. Serrano and Bogdan D. Suceava 238 The Myth of Leibniz's Proof of the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus, Viktor Blasjo 249 The Spirograph and Mathematical Models from Nineteenth-Century Germany, Amy Shell-Gellasch 261 What Does "Depth" Mean in Mathematics? John Stillwell 268 Finding Errors in Big Data, Marco Puts, Piet Daas, and Ton de Waal 291 Programs and Probability, Brian Hayes 300 Lottery Perception, Jorge Almeida 311 Why Acknowledging Uncertainty Can Make You a Better Scientist, Andrew Gelman 316 For Want of a Nail: Why Unnecessarily Long Tests May Be Impeding the Progress of Western Civilization, Howard Wainer and Richard Feinberg 321 How to Write a General Interest Mathematics Book, Ian Stewart 331 Contributors 345 Notable Writings 355 Acknowledgments 373 Credits 375

About the Author

Mircea Pitici holds a PhD in mathematics education from Cornell University and is working on a master's degree in library and information science at Syracuse University. He has edited The Best Writing on Mathematics since 2010.


"[O]ne of my favorite series of books, an annual compilation of high-quality mathematical writing combined with a valuable list of additional resources prepared by the editor."--Mark Hunacek, MAA Reviews "Mircea Pitici's yearly Best Writing on Mathematics volume is a great reminder of just how much accessible math there is! ... Every year I end up saying 'this year's edition [of Pitici's effort] seems like the best one yet.' And so it does... [The Best Writing on Mathematics 2016] is beautifully-produced... As always, Pitici is impressive with the eclectic diversity of his choices for inclusion... I'm already anxious for [Pitici's] 2017 edition!"--Math Tango blog Praise for previous editions: "A volume of unexpectedly fascinating mathematical research, musings, and studies that explore subjects from art to medicine... [R]eaders from many disciplines will find much to pique their interest."--Publishers Weekly Praise for previous editions: "Entertaining and informative."--Ian D. Gordon, Library Journal Praise for previous editions: "Wonderful... [C]annot be recommended highly enough!"--Robert Schaefer, New York Journal of Books Praise for previous editions: "A wonderful and varied bouquet of texts... I highly recommend this book to everyone with an interest in mathematics."--Stephen Buckley, Irish Mathematical Society Bulletin

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