Looking for that perfect gift idea?

Instead of giving that video game or other mind-numbing gift, why not give the gift of knowledge?  A mathematically related book can be the perfect gift to help stimulate the mind. Below are my top 6 picks for math books:

1) The Man Who Loved Only Numbers by Paul Hoffman

2) Men of Mathematics by E.T. Bell

3) Journey through Genius: The Great Theorems of Mathematics by William Dunham

4) The Education of T.C. Mits by Lillian R. Lieber

5) A Mathematician’s Apology by G.H. Hardy

6) Letters to a Young Mathematician by Ian Stewart

While these are my favorites, there are many others I like. To see a complete list of recommendations and/or to see descriptions of these books, click on my “Suggested Books” page on this blog.


The unique personality of a young mathematician.

A young genius ...

A young genius …

One of the all time great mathematicians was Paul Erdős.  Erdős published more original mathematics than any other mathematician in history.  However, Erdős was more than a mathematician.  He was also one of the most unique personalities in all of mathematics.  This “uniqueness” started at a young age.

Upon meeting a new “friend”, Erdős often introduced himself in a mathematical way.  Sometimes he would ask “how many ways can you prove the Pythagorean Theorem?”  (Erdős himself knew 37 different proofs by his early teens!)  Other times, he would ask a computational question.  Once, when 17, he was introduced to 14-year-old Andrew Vazsonyi.  Immediately, without any greeting, he asked Vazsonyi to give him a four digit number.  Without blinking, Erdős was able to square the number in his head.  However, he apologized for not being able to cube the number.  As he said, “I am getting old and decrepit and cannot tell you the cube.”  Amazingly, by the age of 17, he already viewed himself as an old man who was losing his mathematical talents.  In fact, this obsession lasted all 83 years of his life.  Fortunately, for the mathematical community, this obsession never came to be.  He produced original mathematics up until the day he died.

If you would like to learn more about Paul Erdős, you can click here to get his biography.

If you would like to read some great books about Paul Erdős, you can look for one of these:

  • The Man Who Loved Only Numbers by Paul Hoffman  (Click here to read my brief synopsis.)
  • My Brain is Open by Bruce Schechter  (Click here to read my brief synopsis.)

These are great books about one of the greatest talents and most compassionate human beings in the mathematical world.  You will not be disappointed.