Very seldom do I get so excited about a book that I just have to talk about it, but this would be an exception. What's even more unusual is that this is a book about math, and math has always been the bane of my existence! In fact, my husband laughed when he heard I'd purchased it, unable to imagine that I would voluntarily read such a thing. The book is called A Beginner's Guide to Constructing the Universe: The Mathematical Archetypes of Nature, Art and Science and is easily one of the most fascinating things I've ever read. Though I've only started on the book recently, I felt it was too good not to share. It delves into sacred geometry, the mathematics underlying creation, and explores the way math is expressed in everyday life through every aspect of the universe. Personally, I was hooked after this introduction to Chapter 1:

"In the fourteenth century Pope Benedictus XII was selecting artists to work for the Vatican, requesting from each applicant a sample of his ability. Although the Florentine painter Giotto (1266-1337) was known as a master of design and composition, he submitted only a circle drawn freehand, the famous 'O of Giotto.' Yet he was awarded the commission. Why? What's so impressive about a simple circle?"

From the back cover, "Michael Schneider leads us on a spectacular, lavishly illustrated journey along the numbers one through ten to explore the mathematical principles made visible in flowers, shells, crystals, plants and the human body, expressed in the symbolic language of folk sayings and fairy tales, myth and religion, art and architecture. This is a new view of mathematics, not the one we learned at school but a comprehensive guide to the patterns that recur through the universe and underlie human affairs."

Sprinkled with quotes and over 500 wonderful illustrations, the book includes insight into ancient approaches to math (and subsequently the universe, art and architecture), as well as a sort of history of each number through the ages. Additionally, there are hands-on exercises to complete, constructing the various geometric shapes highlighted in each chapter, using only a compass and straight-edge. I should mention that this book is written for the layman, so offers easy reading, even for the math illiterate such as myself! According to the author, "This book wasn't written for mathematicians, but for those of us who were turned off by mathematics as it was taught in school." An informative Voice of America interview with the author can be found here.

The author's website offers additional material to explore, including a series of activity books with "670 pages of original hands-on activities, completely illustrated, guiding you to create and explore the geometric patterns found in nature and art." It promises to be "Ideal for Teachers, Artists, Designers, Architects, Home Schools, and Self-Motivated Learners!" I'm thinking this would be a very interesting way to introduce my eldest to geometry, so will be ordering the activity books for further exploration. Incidentally, the book would also work very well with Joy Hakim's The Story of Science: Aristotle Leads the Way.

1 Comment:

  1. alecat said...
    I've just found your blog and post about this book, c/- the WTM forum.
    Thank you for posting this. It's great!
    We've just been watching the Teaching Company dvd on the "Joy of Mathematics", so a book like this would suit our needs greatly! :)

    Lovely blog, too!
    I'll have to follow you and catch up on your other great posts over time.
    Thanks!! Catherine (Australia)

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