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Loving and hating mathematics. Challenging the myths of mathematical life. (English) Zbl 1238.01119

Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press (ISBN 978-0-691-14247-0/hbk). x, 416 p. (2011).
This book deals with the special role mathematics plays in culture, both as a contribution to culture, but also as a culture of its own. A special focus is laid on mathematical education. The authors emphasize the social and emotional side of mathematics (p. 1). They formulate as their major goal to overcome four distorted, stereotypical images of mathematics and mathematicians: “First is the myth that mathematicians are different from other people, lacking emotional complexity” (p. 2); second, “that mathematics is a solitary pursuit” (p. 4). The third myth says “that mathematics is a young man’s game” (p. 6) and the fourth that mathematics is an effective filter for higher education (ibid.).
The book is organized in nine chapters which all refer to the four myths: Chapter 1 (“Mathematical beginnings”) asks how a child does begin to become a mathematician. Chapter 2 (“Mathematical culture”) deals in an exemplary way with the socialization of mathematicians into their community. In Chapter 3 (“Mathematics as solace”) stories of mathematics as solace in times of detention are told (Jean-Victor Poncelet, JosĂ© Luis Massera). In Chapter 4 (“Mathematics as an addiction”) people totally addicted to mathematics are presented. Chapter 5 gives examples for “Friendships and partnerships” in mathematics, Chapter 6 for mathematical communities, supporting both, aspiring and established mathematicians. Chapter 7 (“Gender and age in mathematics”) presents eminent mathematicians older than 50, even older than 70 years in age. It also recalls female pioneers in mathematics. Chapter 8 on “the teaching of mathematics” reviews with the Moore method and the Potsdam model two opposite educational traditions. The final chapter “Loving and hating school mathematics” discusses some ideas of the problem and significance of mathematics in school eduction.
In this book, a wide range of aspects of mathematics as an enterprize in culture are addressed. It proceeds by example, so it is basically anecdotic, and entertaining.

MSC:

01A80 Sociology (and profession) of mathematics
00A08 Recreational mathematics
00A30 Philosophy of mathematics
97A40 Mathematics education and society
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