The Math Gene: How Mathematical Thinking Evolved and Why Numbers are Like Gossip

by Keith Devlin


Why is math so hard? And why, despite this difficulty, are some people so good at it? If there’s some inborn capacity for mathematical thinkingwhich there must be, otherwise no one could do it why can’t we all do it well? Keith Devlin has answers to all these difficult questions, and in giving them shows us how mathematical ability evolved, why it’s a part of language ability, and how we can make better use of this innate talent.He also offers a breathtakingly new theory of language developmentthat language evolved in two stages, and its main purpose was not communicationto show that the ability to think mathematically arose out of the same symbol-manipulating ability that was so crucial to the emergence of true language. Why, then, can’t we do math as well as we can speak? The answer, says Devlin, is that we can and dowe just don’t recognize when we’re using mathematical reasoning.

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