Book Review on Concepts of Modern Mathematics by Ian Stewart

I read “Concepts of Modern Mathematics” by Ian Stewart. I was stoked about reading a book on math because I enjoy reading and I enjoy math. Basically I equated it to a simple conjecture; If I like reading and math, then reading math will be sweet! I had read that my boy Ian Stewart was a funny writer and that this book was a good example of that. This was good. It made it look like the conjecture I had come up with would be true. Before I would be sure if my conjecture was true I had to actual read the book. And that is exactly what I did.

            I finished the first chapter enjoying Mr. Stewart’s voice and fun joke. He had a good mix of puffing up mathematicians to being the most superior beings in the world and to how abstract/ludicrous they could be (especially theoretical mathematicians).  After finishing the first chapter I was intrigued by what would come and would show the book off to all my “inferior” friends. I would even occasionally read it in my college algebra class (which I have a B in).  This first chapter confirmed my conjecture. Now I couldn’t make this a theorem until I read this whole book, but I at this point I was a bad mathematician and cut corners and assumed that it was true.

Since I believed that my conjecture was true it made me make a lot of excuses when I ran into things that proved my conjecture false. This false-belief in my conjecture helped me read the next 5 or 6 chapters with much… perseverance. Chapter two, just coming off the high on the first chapter, was interesting to an extent, but I started to have a decreasing slope in my interest in the book. I didn’t want my conjecture to be wrong, but was shaping out to be that way the more I read.

Mr. Stewart slowly became less of my friend who I wanted to hang with and more of a dreaded professor whose class you have to sit through every week. The book covers a very large amount of math. Much of it was review from previous classes, such as advanced algebra (mth 310) and discrete mathematics (mth 345). This typically made me want to fall asleep because I was not interested in relearning information I already knew (which is ironic because I am taking college algebra, but hey I sway in some of my logic). Also, the book hit a lot on the information taught in the two classes I mentioned above and these were two classes I wasn’t overly zealous about. It often had me remembering the suffering and pain I endured taking these classes.

Although I did not enjoy the book and unfortunately my conjecture was wrong, there was some interesting parts of the book. It was like digging for gold. You have to read a lot to find little gold nuggets in the reading that you enjoy (probably not large enough to have any significant values, but it is gold none the less). For instances, I found that his chapter on there being two types of infinity was interesting to me. I was really impressed when he proved that you can count rational numbers , which unfortunately would take a whole page and a half to give the context and explanation to show how he did it. So the book wasn’t all bad. I would say that there around 15-20% of the information that is interesting and captivating, but overall the book was better at putting me to sleep. Though my original conjecture was wrong, I have revised it and I will test on this next book I read this semester.

Conjecture: If I enjoy reading and math, then I may enjoy reading a book on math.


One thought on “Book Review on Concepts of Modern Mathematics by Ian Stewart”

  1. Strong point of view that you back up. Love the line: Mr. Stewart slowly became less of my friend who I wanted to hang with and more of a dreaded professor whose class you have to sit through every week.

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