The Calculus of Friendship is the story of an extraordinary connection between a teacher and a student, as chronicled through more than thirty years of letters between them. What makes their relationship unique is that it is based almost entirely on a shared love of calculus. For them, calculus is more than a branch of mathematics; it is a game they love playing together, a constant when all else is in flux. The teacher goes from the prime of his career to retirement, competes in whitewater kayaking at the international level, and loses a son. The student matures from high school math whiz to Ivy League professor, suffers the sudden death of a parent, and blunders into a marriage destined to fail. Yet through it all they take refuge in the haven of calculus--until a day comes when calculus is no longer enough.
Like calculus itself, The Calculus of Friendship is an exploration of change. It's about the transformation that takes place in a student's heart, as he and his teacher reverse roles, as they age, as they are buffeted by life itself. Written by a renowned teacher and communicator of mathematics, The Calculus of Friendship is warm, intimate, and deeply moving. The most inspiring ideas of calculus, differential equations, and chaos theory are explained through metaphors, images, and anecdotes in a way that all readers will find beautiful, and even poignant. Math enthusiasts, from high school students to professionals, will delight in the offbeat problems and lucid explanations in the letters.
For anyone whose life has been changed by a mentor, The Calculus of Friendship will be an unforgettable journey.
Steven Strogatz is the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor of Applied Mathematics at Cornell University. His books include the best-selling Sync: The Emerging Science of Spontaneous Order (Hyperion). He has written for the New York Times's Opinionator blog.
"An intimate view of mentorship is revealed by US mathematician Steven Strogatz in The Calculus of Friendship, a compilation of letters exchanged with his high-school math teacher over 30 years. Through their correspondence they share problems in calculus, chaos theory and major life events, from professional and sporting successes to family bereavements and divorce. The book touchingly charts their changing roles and relationship, from student to professor, teacher to retirement."--Nature
"The spring of his freshman year in college, Strogatz began to exchange letters with his high school calculus teacher, Don Joffray. At some point, their amiable correspondence about math problems led to a true friendship. In The Calculus of Friendship, Strogatz weaves their letters into reflections on the philosophical similarities between calculus and human relationships and portrays a friendship firmly founded on a love of dreaming up and solving calculus problems . . . . One can also feel the personality and humor of these pen pals emerging through their symbol-sprinkled sentences."--Science
"Part biography, part autobiography and part off-the-beaten-path guide to calculus, this quick read details 30 years of correspondence between Strogatz and Joffray. Calculus, Isaac Newton's ingenious invention for modeling change mathematically, serves as both text and subtext for the letters that pass between Strogatz and Joff. Focusing almost exclusively on questions of mathematics, these brief notes frame the unlikely friendship of a teacher and his star student. With the precision of an award-winning mathematician and the clarity of a best-selling science author, Strogatz leads us on an excursion through some of the lesser-known mathematical sights--the ones usually reserved for the 'members only' tour. . . . The mathematics covered in these letters is impressive for such a short volume."--American Scientist
Table of Contents:
Continuity (1974-75) 1
Pursuit (1976) 8
Relativity (1977) 13
Irrationality (1978-79) 23
Shifts (1980-89) 34
Proof on a Place Mat (March 1989) 42
The Monk and the Mountain (1989-90) 71
Randomness (1990-91) 84
Infinity and Limits (1991) 94
Chaos (1992-95) 107
Celebration (1996-99) 115
The Path of Quickest Descent (2000-2003) 118
Bifurcation (2004) 128
Hero's Formula (2005-Present) 140
Further Reading 157
Photography Credits 163
Index of Math Problems 165