The Maths Gene

The Maths Gene : Why Everyone Has it, But Most People Don't Use it

By (author) Keith J. Devlin

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Where does our mathematical ability come from? Our prehistoric ancestors' brains were essentially the same as ours, so they must have had the same underlying ability. What purpose could it serve in 50,000 BC? And what exactly goes on in our brains when we multiply 15 by 36 or prove Fermat's Last Theorem? The answer, according to Keith Devlin, is closely related to the evolutionary changes in the human brain that gave rise to language. It lies within our genes and more specifically with the pattern-making abilities with which we are born. Devlin uses these insights to show why some people loathe mathematics, why others find it so difficult, and why a select few excel at the subject. He also suggests ways in which we can improve our mathematical skills.

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  • Paperback | 320 pages
  • 128 x 196 x 26mm | 99.79g
  • 01 Mar 2001
  • Orion Publishing Co
  • Phoenix (an Imprint of The Orion Publishing Group Ltd )
  • London
  • English
  • 30 Line Drawing(s)
  • 075381126X
  • 9780753811269
  • 1,082,026

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Author Information

SALES POINTS A simple and appealing message - everyone has the ability to do maths Contains advice on how we can improve our mathematical skills Keith Devlin is a world-renowned expert on maths He is the award-winning author of many books on the subject 'Devlin's explanations of complex mathematical conundrums in layman's terms are brilliantly simple' Edge

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Review text

You might be a little disappointed with this book if you expect the contents to correlate with the title; from 'The Maths Gene' you couldn't be blamed if you thought this was going to be another pop science book in the vein of Martin Gardner or Ian Stewart. Instead, Keith Devlin has produced a very different thesis on the development of the human brain to perform mathematics in all its forms. He has examined all the factors that affect the brain's growth - biological, social, environmental and survivalist mechanisms. During his exposition, the idea of a universal female ancestor group as the source of brain improvement has been considered (recently shown by Brian Sykes at Oxford). But underlying every argument, he consistently asks why humans developed this one exceptional feature which has given them such superiority on earth. In illustrating these ideas, he draws on so many sources that the early part of the book can feel like a bit of a 'rag-bag' of ideas. On this point of style, he writes very like Richard Dawkins in his books on the gene and its development. But as in Dawkins's books, the target of the theses doesn't take long to distil from those scattered primary examples, and by the final chapter, he reaches an enjoyable and satisfying conclusion. Although Devlin is a mathematician, his knowledge and experience of the human condition stretches far beyond the bounds of his profession (as the brief biography on the book's jacket reveals, he has led a varied existence so far). With The Maths Gene he has written a book which can be read by anyone who wants to understand 'the software' of the human animal. (Kirkus UK)

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