The Psychology of Mathematics: A Journey of Personal Mathematical Empowerment for Educators and Curious Minds by Anderson Norton

The cover to  The Psychology of Mathematics: A Journey of Personal Mathematical Empowerment for Educators and Curious Minds by Anderson NortonOxfordshire, UK. Routledge. 2022. 238 pages.

USING AN APPROACH that empowers students by fostering their hidden constructions of mathematics structures, The Psychology of Mathematics offers an innovative introduction to the often-ignored and less-discussed psychology of mathematics. The author—an award-winning mathematician, educator, and writer—uses an engaging and accessible style, thereby making the reading experience both enriching and revealing. The book, by virtue of its style and simplicity, is accessible to a nonmathematical audience, too.

In a dozen chapters, readers are exposed to the gorgeous world of mathematics. Combatting the common misnomer that mathematics is boring and hard, Norton offers exciting discussions on various mathematical themes, such as the power of symbols, the geometry of numbers, and the wonderful gift of mathematics. The book discusses a plethora of engaging and enriching discussions, such as the unreasonable effectiveness of numbers in our diurnal lives, the ineradicable interplay of language and mathematics, and the innate ability—found in babies and some animals—to immediately apprehend small numbers.

Figures receive more appreciation and attention than numbers do. A figure speaks more than a thousand words. By focusing on space as a product of our own psychology, we make geometry more intuitive. Observing that mathematical symbols provide a way for recording the products of our mental actions, we are no longer required to keep them in the mind at all.

Mathematics is a wonderful gift. In the author’s words, “It is a gift that keeps on giving, having given us everything from numbers to Neptune.” The author does not attempt to make mathematics easier; he only envisions making it dearer and more valuable to the reader. He does so, and successfully, by cutting down on jargon and by enhancing conversational communication of otherwise difficult concepts of geometry and other branches of mathematics. The motivation for writing this book is not simply to marvel at mathematics but also to promote mathematics as personally enriching and empowering.

The book is an excellent exposition of the incessant wonder that mathematicians and philosophers have experienced and expressed for millennia. It draws on what Galileo is reported to have remarked in his 1623 masterpiece, The Assayer: “Philosophy is written in this grand book—I mean the universe—that stands continuously open to our gaze, but it cannot be understood unless one first learns to comprehend the language in which it is written. It is written in the language of mathematics.” It is not an exaggeration to proclaim that mathematics is the language in which the universe has been written, and Psychology attempts to bring the same fact to the fore for a nonmathematical audience.

Firdous Ahmad Mala
Government Degree
College Sopore, Jammu and Kashmir

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