Adopting the same whimsical manner as Leonardo Pisano himself, Dr. Keith Devlin numbers his chapters in The Man of Numbers: Fibonacci’s Arithmetic Revolution beginning with 0 rather than 1. Thus, with this unexpected yet unobtrusive twist in composition (perhaps not even be noticed by some readers), Devlin introduces us to Leonardo Pisano, the humble mathematician who also happened to be an inconspicuous genius. Devlin says Fibonacci dispersed many “whimsical challenges” throughout Liber Abaci to “break the tedium of the hundreds of practical problems that dominate the book.” Devlin, too, mixes insightful observations about the medieval mathematician’s life with serious mathematic contemplation of Fibonacci’s computational strategies. Thus this 21st-century book is like Fibonacci’s 13-century one: entertaining as well as instructional.
The modern math historian, Devlin, succeeds in providing so many details about the once-forgotten medieval maestro who “looked for ways to dress up the abstractions in familiar, everyday clothing” that we cannot help but be impressed by the frankly-amazing accomplishments and legacy of this man who – almost imperceptibly – changed the world. Moreover, by the end of the book, we deeply appreciate that Devlin has taken the time – and expended the effort – to enlighten us about Fibonacci, one of those few individuals produced in every age “who are both very much ahead of their time” to imagine what is possible, “and also of their time” to make what is possible happen.
Anyone who loves math, history, and math history will love this book and may (like Devlin and me) even become enamored with its humble hero.
Dr. Keith Devlin is a mathematician, author, educator, and math historian; he is also the Executive Director of the Human-Sciences and Technologies Advanced Research Institute (H-STAR) at Stanford University, which focuses on the ways in which people and technology interact. Co-founder of the educational technology company BrainQuake, he also created the Massive Open Online Course, Introduction to Mathematical Thinking, and blogs regularly for mathematically-inclined readers. He is known to millions of NPR listeners as “The Math Guy” on Weekend Edition with Scott Simon, and his current research is focused on the development, creation, and use of different media to teach and communicate mathematics to diverse audiences.
His most recent books are Introduction to Mathematical Thinking, Mathematics Education for a New Era: Video Games as a Medium for Learning (AK Peters/CRC Press), The Man of Numbers: Fibonacci’s Arithmetic Revolution (Walker & Co), and an e-book short, Leonardo and Steve: The Young Genius Who Beat Apple to Market by 800 Years.
Devlin, Keith. Finding Fibonacci: The Quest to Rediscover the Forgotten Mathematical Genius Who Changed the World, Princeton University Press (March 2017).
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Paperback: 128 pages
Author: Shelley Allen, M.A.Ed.
Publisher: Fibonacci Inc.; 1st edition (2019)