Blessed For The Crappy Review of My Math Book

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It’s been over a year since my first book got released. And, I am in the throes of finishing writing my second book, “Math Recess”, with Chris Brownell from California.

I wrote Pi of Life: The Hidden Happiness for two reasons.

One, for my kids. I am 54 years-old. My kids are 9 and 11. You can do the math. I am going to have to defy statistics to become a grandfather. The book serves as a lasting impression — call it emotional insurance — of who their father was through the lens of mathematics. The weaving of mathematics through music, films, Anthony Bourdain, etc. was purposeful. I wanted them to have some reference of the stuff that I liked, just in case those conversations never happen…

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The second reason I wrote this book was to make friends. Friends?

Let me explain.

The purpose of mathematics always seems to be moored to the interpersonal — what can it do for the self. Nothing wrong with that. Most experiences in this life are personal. Mathematics is no different. You learn, explore, and dabble in it for purposes that are specific to you. But, music is my first love. Always will be. Sure music is another great personal pleasure of life, but when we go — if we still go — to concerts/festivals, music brings us together. We reflect about our lives with each other through the power and beauty of music.

Mathematics is no different. I seek the intrapersonal joys that playing with numbers brings.

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That is why my second and final goal of the book was to seek out friendships/bonds that could be made through the deepest and most romantic ideas of mathematics. No apologies there.

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So perhaps seeing a terrible review of my book would have been devastating. It wasn’t. I knew what I wrote and why I wrote it. It was going to be an easy target for some. But, it also strongly reminded me that the idea of what mathematics is and why we should learn it is still propagated through unchecked systems of status, class, practicality, stoic utility, and performance.

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First of all, not sure one would by a book and criticize it for the very thing it claims to do on the back of the book? I wasn’t claiming to offering insight into Riemann's Hypothesis! But, the last sentence is interesting — to offer no value in one’s life. This book has connected me to so many amazing people all over the world — even back to the country of my birth, Australia, and the country of my background, India. It has fulfilled its purpose — and it continues to do so — because the book is about humanizing math. To have it filter through our everyday conversations in the deepest ways in the short time that we have with each other.

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But, that review as scathing as it was, reminded me that there is lots of work to do to communicate the human essence of mathematics — especially from me. It was refreshingly scathing. And, while I have been humbled to have my book included in three “Top 5” lists of math books to read, I also realize that mathematics has a societal perception/currency that is difficult to change. That there are people out there who will only ridicule at the “softer” ideas of mathematics.

It is this harsh rebuke of my ideas of mathematics that strengthens my conviction to continue to write in this vein — not recede from it. Thank to you all those that have entered into my life through this highly personal reflection about mathematics.

And, thank you Alfred Y for reminding me that there are things more important things than mathematics — like family and friends. I am sorry that the book did not resonate with you, but I am thankful that you reminded me, strangely as this will sound, that I am going in the right direction.

The journey continues.

Author of Pi of Life: The Hidden Happiness of Mathematics and Co-Author of Math Recess: Playful Learning in the Age of Disruption. Speaker. Amplify and Mathigon

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