Anyone—and there are many—who has been bored by high school algebra or baffled by college calculus will find Jerry King’s THE ART OF MATHEMATICS a delight and a revelation. When King, a professional mathematician, describes the premises and functions of his discipline, we understand. There turns out to be some real meaning behind those scribbles on the blackboard, those formulae in the textbooks. More than that, it is a meaning which can be understood, even admired, by those of us who long ago renounced mathematics for anything more challenging than balancing a check book or making change at the store.
King reveals the meanings of mathematics and its workings in a clear, lucid presentation that moves gracefully to the underlying theme of his book, the sheer beauty of mathematics. This is a study of aesthetics as much as a survey of a science. Under King’s guidance the reader comes to see mathematics less as a discipline and more as an art; not so much a tool as a pursuit of beauty in its clearest and purest form.
Many readers will experience something of a double revelation while reading THE ART OF MATHEMATICS. First, they will understand much about mathematics itself; second, they will appreciate its inherent aesthetic appeal.
The reader may also wonder why this clarity of explanation, this sense of beauty, was missing in all those algebra, calculus, and trigonometry classes suffered through so long—or not so long— ago. The answer, as Jerry King recognizes, is that mathematics is simply not being taught in American classrooms; it is being “told,” and most students must accept on faith a subject they do not understand and therefore do not appreciate.
King makes a sensible, practical plea to change this situation, substituting real mathematical education for the rote learning now inflicted on our students. His reasoning is clear, his examples valid, and his love of his subject persuasive. Perhaps one day we will have the mathematical education our country deserves. Until then, one could start with THE ART OF MATHEMATICS.