Published by
Princeton University Press (June 2015)
Current material
Final PDF
Mathematics & Science


In Praise of Small Numbers

by Chamberland, Marc

The numbers one through nine have remarkable mathematical properties and characteristics. For instance, why do eight perfect card shuffles leave a standard deck of cards unchanged? Are there really "six degrees of separation" between all pairs of people? And how can any map need only four colors to ensure that no regions of the same color touch? In Single Digits, Marc Chamberland takes readers on a fascinating exploration of small numbers, from one to nine, looking at their history, applications, and connections to various areas of mathematics, including number theory, geometry, chaos theory, numerical analysis, and mathematical physics.

Each chapter focuses on a single digit, beginning with easy concepts that become more advanced as the chapter progresses. Chamberland covers vast numerical territory, such as illustrating the ways that the number three connects to chaos theory, an unsolved problem involving Egyptian fractions, the number of guards needed to protect an art gallery, and problematic election results. He considers the role of the number seven in matrix multiplication, the Transylvania lottery, synchronizing signals, and hearing the shape of a drum. Throughout, he introduces readers to an array of puzzles, such as perfect squares, the four hats problem, Strassen multiplication, Catalan's conjecture, and so much more. The book's short sections can be read independently and digested in bite-sized chunks--especially good for learning about the Ham Sandwich Theorem and the Pizza Theorem.

Marc Chamberland is the Myra Steele Professor of Natural Science and Mathematics at Grinnell College. He is the creator of the YouTube channel "Tipping Point Math, "which strives to make mathematics accessible to everyone.

Grosse Wunder hinter kleinen Zahlen -
ueber 100 mathematische Exkursionen
fuer neugierige und Geniesser
Deutsch von Michael Basler
[PB Springer 10/16]

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This wonderful book never loses its focus or momentum, and readers may dip into it for a few entries or read straight through. (Pick of the Week)

Review: Publishers Weekly

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