Daily Archives: June 25, 2009

Math Anxiety

Of all the indignities one has to suffer through as a teenager, I think math class was the thing I dreaded most about those years. Ask me a math question to this day and I’m likely to break out in a cold sweat. Given the number of books on how to overcome math anxiety, I’m far from being the only one who has a fear of math. But while I’m not about to start solving equations for fun, I have developed something of an appreciation for math. Aside from the fact that I need to use at least a little math in everyday life, I find math quite beautiful in the abstract. I enjoy learning about newly-discovered prime numbers or math problems that took centuries to solve. I like how math turns up in nature and art and music, and how even our idea of what is beautiful owes something to mathematical proportions. CLP has many math materials, from the basics to advanced calculus. I tend to like those books that are about the less obvious (until you think about it) uses of math, like knitting or cooking.  A few books that I like are:

  • Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking, by Michael Ruhlman: I’ve always thought that cooking is an art, while baking is more of a science.  Ruhlman breaks down the different ratios and proportions in different baked goods, helping even the most math-fearing bakers learn the basic math that’s needed for creating great baked goods. 
  • Coincidences, Chaos, and All That Math Jazz: Making Light of Weighty Ideas, by Edward Burger and Michael Starbird: Even those of you who slept through algebra class will probably find this an interesting– if somewhat corny– read.  The authors crack jokes while discussing things like coincidences, chaos, and cryptography. 
  • Origami Design Secrets: Mathematical Methods For an Ancient Art, by Robert J. Lang: Some of the origami patterns in this book are just fantastic, but the real draw is the instruction on how to design your own origami.  A good introduction to how math is used in design. 
  • Making Mathematics with Needlework: Ten Papers and Ten Projects, by Sarah-Marie Belcastro and Carolyn Yackel: If you’ve ever wondered what a mobius strip would look like as a quilt, you probably already own this book.  Knitters who have discovered that it’s impossible to design a pattern without using math will also like this book, which places math in a crafty context. 


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