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Loving and Hating Mathematics:
Challenging the Myths of Mathematical Life
Reuben Hersh & Vera John-Steiner

Hardcover | 2011 | $29.95 | £24.95 | ISBN: 9780691142470
432 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 61 halftones.
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eBook | ISBN: 9781400836116 |
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Mathematics is often thought of as the coldest expression of pure reason. But few subjects provoke hotter emotions--and inspire more love and hatred--than mathematics. And although math is frequently idealized as floating above the messiness of human life, its story is nothing if not human; often, it is all too human. Loving and Hating Mathematics is about the hidden human, emotional, and social forces that shape mathematics and affect the experiences of students and mathematicians. Written in a lively, accessible style, and filled with gripping stories and anecdotes, Loving and Hating Mathematics brings home the intense pleasures and pains of mathematical life.

These stories challenge many myths, including the notions that mathematics is a solitary pursuit and a "young man's game," the belief that mathematicians are emotionally different from other people, and even the idea that to be a great mathematician it helps to be a little bit crazy. Reuben Hersh and Vera John-Steiner tell stories of lives in math from their very beginnings through old age, including accounts of teaching and mentoring, friendships and rivalries, love affairs and marriages, and the experiences of women and minorities in a field that has traditionally been unfriendly to both. Included here are also stories of people for whom mathematics has been an immense solace during times of crisis, war, and even imprisonment--as well as of those rare individuals driven to insanity and even murder by an obsession with math.

This is a book for anyone who wants to understand why the most rational of human endeavors is at the same time one of the most emotional.


"Loving and Hating Mathematics, by Reuben Hersh and Vera John-Steiner: Mathematicians also happen to be full of emotion."--Tyler Cowen, New York Times Magazine's Very Short Reviews

"Mathematics gets a bad press. Its practitioners are often portrayed as aloof hyper-rationalists with oodles of logic but no emotional intelligence. Not so, say mathematician Reuben Hersh and linguist Vera John-Steiner. Focusing on the emotional side of the discipline, they reveal mathematicians' passions, collaborations and love affairs. The stories range from those who sought solace in equations to some who were driven to murder by a maths obsession."--Nature

"Wisely used, the book could infuse the important issue of students' emotions into debates about mathematics education."--Lynn Arthur Steen, Science

"[T]he volume is quite entertaining, surprising in parts, and mostly convincing in its myth-demolition assignment."--Library Journal

"A book rescuing the full humanity of mathematicians from misleading stereotypes."--Booklist

"[A] provocative new book. . . . This thoroughly entertaining book highlights vitally important issues [in mathematics]."--Tony Mann, Times Higher Education

"I do recommend the work to the interested mathematics observer . . . especially if you already love mathematics."--Math-Frolic blog

"There's material for a thousand movie scripts in the vignettes--warm, funny, tragic or horrifying--that stud the pages of Loving and Hating Mathematics. . . . [The authors] aim to put a human face on the impulses that drive us to--or from--math. . . . The book offers insights into an important world invisible to many of us."--Albuquerque Journal

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Table of Contents:

Acknowledgments ix
Introduction 1
Chapter 1: Mathematical Beginnings 9
Chapter 2: Mathematical Culture 46
Chapter 3: Mathematics as Solace 89
Chapter 4: Mathematics as an Addiction: Following Logic to the End 106
Chapter 5: Friendships and Partnerships 138
Chapter 6: Mathematical Communities 176
Chapter 7: Gender and Age in Mathematics 228
Chapter 8: The Teaching of Mathematics: Fierce or Friendly? 273
Chapter 9: Loving and Hating School Mathematics 301
Conclusions 334
Review of the Literature 339
Biographies 349
Notes 385
Index of Names 403
General Index 410

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