Benjamin’s Book Has Appeal for Math Lovers and Math-phobics

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Think of a number between 20 and 100. Then add the digits together. Now subtract the total from your original number. Finally, add the digits of the new number together.

You’re thinking of the number 9, right?

Well, if you’re not, you may do well to read the new book by Harvey Mudd College mathematics Professor Art Bejnamin: The Magic of Math: Solving for x and Figuring Out Why (available Sept. 8). Benjamin shows how the math we learned in school—from basic counting and arithmetic to algebra, geometry and beyond—can be easy, intuitive and fun. “Numbers, shapes and pure logic can yield delightful surprises,” Benjamin says. “And with just a little bit of algebra or geometry, you can often discover the secrets behind the magic.”

Benjamin, holder of the Smallwood Family Chair at Harvey Mudd, has been called America’s Best Math Whiz by Reader’s Digest and was named one of America’s 300 Best Professors by Princeton Review. Also a magician, he has performed his “mathemagics” shows at thousands of schools, universities, conferences and public venues around the world. Combined, his three TED talks on math have been viewed more than 11 million times.

A dynamic presenter who has been praised for his ability to entertain, motivate, stimulate and educate simultaneously, Benjamin has appeared on numerous television programs, including Today, The Colbert Report and The Queen Latifah Show. He and his work have also been featured in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, People Magazine and Wired, among others.

Benjamin-The Magic of MathIntroducing readers to broad areas of math—including algebra, geometry and calculus— Benjamin also zeroes in on the magic of specific numbers and concepts, among them: Pascal’s triangle, infinity, pi, e, i, Fibonacci numbers, the golden ratio, and—his personal favorite—the number 9. But in The Magic of Math Benjamin does more than just teach skills; he shows readers how easy it is to appreciate math the way he does. Proofs can seem like tedious little frustration machines, but with Benjamin, readers learn to appreciate them as gems of logic that are integral parts of a much larger and more beautiful whole. “One of the great joys of doing mathematics,” Benjamin writes, “is the ability to prove things true beyond a shadow of a doubt.”

Throughout The Magic of Math, Benjamin’s appreciation for the elegance and relevance of math is contagious. He wants readers to learn something new about how to solve for x, because, as he notes, there is real pleasure to be found in the solution to a challenging problem, or in using numbers to do something useful.

Benjamin has received numerous awards for his writing and teaching and served as editor of Math Horizons magazine for the Mathematical Association of America. Co-author of The Fascinating World of Graph Theory and author of Secrets of Mental Math, Benjamin holds a PhD from Johns Hopkins University.

Benjamin is touring the United States to share The Magic of Math. Upcoming book signing events in California will be held

  • Sept. 13, 2 p.m., Barnes & Noble, Montclair Plaza (5183 Montclair Plaza Lane)
  • Oct. 14, 7:30 p.m., Warwick’s in La Jolla (7812 Girard Avenue)
  • Oct. 18, 4 p.m., Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena (695 East Colorado Boulevard)
  • Sept. 11, 6 p.m., Proof School in San Francisco (555 Post Street)
  • Sept. 14, 7:30 p.m., Town Hall Seattle (1119 8th Avenue)
  • Sept. 23, 6:30 p.m., Museum of Mathematics, New York (11 East 26th Street)

Art Benjamin interviewed on KALW’s West Coast Live