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Adam Spencer's Big Book of Numbers - Book Review

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Published December 17th 2014
Maths doesn't have to be boring
Adam Spencer Big Book of Numbers
Adam Spencer's Big Book of Numbers

What do African elephants, the city of Konigsberg and Kevin Bacon have in common? They all feature in Adam Spencer's 2014 best seller The Big Book of Numbers.

Who would have thought a book about mathematics and numbers could be a best seller? Definitely not me. So what is all the fuss about?

Well, if you have ever wondered why October is not the 8th month of the year or where the superstitious origins of Friday 13th came from, you will find the answers to these questions, and other puzzling numerical trivia, in this book by self-confessed maths geek Adam Spencer.

ABC Sydney radio listeners will be familiar with Adam Spencer, who has had a successful radio and television career over the past 15 years and was this year appointed the first Mathematics and Science ambassador for Sydney University. In this role he is sharing his love of numbers in helping to promote the importance of maths and science education in Australia.

Indeed Spencer's Big Book of Numbers seems to be well on the way to making maths more popular, by selling out in just a few short weeks. The book is over 400 pages long and covers the numbers 1 to 100. It is part mathematical trivia and popular culture with some numerical party tricks thrown in. For example, the number six is used to describe the phenomenon of "6 degrees of Kevin Bacon" as a mathematical problem. As well as popular culture, Spencer does explain more complex mathematical problems such as Catalan numbers (formulae that divide pentagons into three triangles).

I am no maths genius, but even for my average abilities I found plenty of interest in this book as it is for everyone with an interest in trivia or learning about the world we live in. In the same way that Dr Karl Kruszelnicki has popularised every day science, so too Adam Spencer is on the way to popularising maths and making it accessible to everyone.
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Why? Maths from a different perspective
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