Enlightening Symbols: A Short History of Mathematical Notation and Its Hidden Powers

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9780691154633: Enlightening Symbols: A Short History of Mathematical Notation and Its Hidden Powers

While all of us regularly use basic math symbols such as those for plus, minus, and equals, few of us know that many of these symbols weren't available before the sixteenth century. What did mathematicians rely on for their work before then? And how did mathematical notations evolve into what we know today? In Enlightening Symbols, popular math writer Joseph Mazur explains the fascinating history behind the development of our mathematical notation system. He shows how symbols were used initially, how one symbol replaced another over time, and how written math was conveyed before and after symbols became widely adopted.

Traversing mathematical history and the foundations of numerals in different cultures, Mazur looks at how historians have disagreed over the origins of the numerical system for the past two centuries. He follows the transfigurations of algebra from a rhetorical style to a symbolic one, demonstrating that most algebra before the sixteenth century was written in prose or in verse employing the written names of numerals. Mazur also investigates the subconscious and psychological effects that mathematical symbols have had on mathematical thought, moods, meaning, communication, and comprehension. He considers how these symbols influence us (through similarity, association, identity, resemblance, and repeated imagery), how they lead to new ideas by subconscious associations, how they make connections between experience and the unknown, and how they contribute to the communication of basic mathematics.

From words to abbreviations to symbols, this book shows how math evolved to the familiar forms we use today.

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From the Back Cover:

"This book provides an insightful synthesis of the historical and mental revolutions that created humanity's most useful symbols--mathematical expressions."--Stanislas Dehaene, author of Reading in the Brain

"Mathematical symbols are much more than squiggles on paper--they serve as potent sources of insight into a wonderfully complex language. In this book, Joseph Mazur takes us on a fascinating journey into the origins of these symbols. You cannot ask for a better guide."--Mario Livio, astrophysicist and author of Brilliant Blunders

"Joseph Mazur teaches us that the history of mathematical notation is the history of human civilization."--Kenneth A. Ribet, University of California, Berkeley

"In this thoughtful, entertaining, and carefully researched book, Mazur lays out the development of the mathematical notations and symbols that we take for granted. He offers a fascinating look at the history of the conventions of writing mathematical ideas, and shows how important our choice of conventions has been for the growth of mathematical knowledge."--Emily R. Grosholz, author of Representation and Productive Ambiguity in Mathematics and the Sciences

"Worldwide, mathematicians speak a common symbolic language. Mazur traces how symbols developed and gradually took hold, uniting arithmetic, algebra, and geometry to give us metaphors as powerful as those of poems. A fascinating history!"--Philip Holmes, coauthor of Celestial Encounters

"A curiosity cabinet of mathematical gems, curated by Joseph Mazur's cosmopolitan good taste."--Siobhan Roberts, author of Wind Wizard

"Enlightening Symbols explains the origins of symbols used in mathematics. But this fun book is so much more than this. Filled with interesting stories, captivating material, and delightful observations, it offers readers a better understanding of the nature of mathematics and a wonderful overview of mathematical history."--Dominic Klyve, Central Washington University

"An enjoyable and informative tour of mathematics history, Enlightening Symbols describes how our modern system of notation led to the abstraction we work with today. This is an important and interesting story."--Anna Pierrehumbert, Trinity School

About the Author:

Joseph Mazur is the author of Euclid in the Rainforest (Plume), which was a finalist for the PEN/Martha Albrand Award, Zeno's Paradox (Plume), What's Luck Got to Do with It? (Princeton), and Fluke (Basic).

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Joseph Mazur
Verlag: University Press Group Ltd Mrz 2014 (2014)
ISBN 10: 0691154635 ISBN 13: 9780691154633
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Buchbeschreibung University Press Group Ltd Mrz 2014, 2014. Buch. Buchzustand: Neu. Neuware - While all of us regularly use basic math symbols such as those for plus, minus, and equals, few of us know that many of these symbols weren't available before the sixteenth century. What did mathematicians rely on for their work before then And how did mathematical notations evolve into what we know today In Enlightening Symbols, popular math writer Joseph Mazur explains the fascinating history behind the development of our mathematical notation system. He shows how symbols were used initially, how one symbol replaced another over time, and how written math was conveyed before and after symbols became widely adopted. Englisch. Artikel-Nr. 9780691154633

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