Review: Math for Grownups

Books GeekMom

Let it be said from the start: I’m a word girl, not a numbers girl. And I’m okay with that. My husband? He wishes I could crunch numbers a little more like him. I think the glassy-eyed, blank stares he gets when he starts talking numbers to me scare him just a little bit.

I don’t know that I’ll ever get beyond the glazed over eyeballs, but Math for Grownups by Laura Laing is going to be my new cheat sheet. Broken down into chapters that cover using math in various situations (at home! on vacation! at the bank! Math is everywhere!) the author uses plenty of examples to make the math make sense. And that, dear GeekMoms, is what needs to happen in order for me to improve my skills.

Answering the age-old question, “When will I ever use this again??” the author discusses the math behind big issues like figuring out just how much you can afford to pay for a new home and smaller problems like what size turkey you’ll need to feed your Thanksgiving guests. You’ll find formulas and clear, concise instructions to help you calculate whether or not a big warehouse membership is worth the cost, how much carpet you’ll need to cover your floor, or (maybe more importantly) how many miles you’ll need on the treadmill to burn off one doughnut.

As you might be able to tell from some of those examples, this isn’t a dry math book. The author makes math relevant. This is a book that could teach high school math teachers a thing or two. While there are a fair number of equations represented, by using stories to illustrate the reason for those equations, she brings it down to a level that will be easily understood by people who generally shy away from math. Oh, this is when I’d use the V = lwh formula!

While the subtitle offers to help you “Relearn the Arithmetic You Forgot from School…” I have to quibble with that. I think this book would be valuable for high school math students who just aren’t getting it, despite ongoing classes. It’s not a full course, by any means, but it could really help a frustrated student wrap their head around some mathematical concepts.

Laura Laing offers up even more math goodness at her Math for Grownups blog and on Facebook. Go say hello, won’t you?

Image: Adams Media

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2 thoughts on “Review: Math for Grownups

  1. Why do we as a society even put up with the “the age-old question, “When will I ever use this again??””?

    I don’t hear people asking when they are going to ever use Tess of the d’Urbervilles again…

    Math is more than just a collection of unrelated equations that have limited use. It is a way of thinking and viewing the world that has gives both application and beauty in any field of human endeavor, just like all of the other liberal arts.

    I’m serious in my question though. Why do we even ask this “age old question”? What is it in our societies teaching style that makes it a natural question to ask of Math but not of other subjects?

    Thanks for pointing the book out to me. I am looking forward to buying and reading it.

    1. In my opinion, it’s because the math is separated from the task. Giving kids (or anyone) a math problem on paper to solve after some instruction is quite different than having an apprentice help to build a house, and gain his “math” skills through application. I think that’s why this book spoke to me. The author very clearly spells out when/why a person would use a particular problem.

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