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Magnificent Mistakes in Mathematics

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Written by Alfred S. PosamentierAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Alfred S. Posamentier and Ingmar LehmannAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Ingmar Lehmann


List Price: $12.99


On Sale: August 13, 2013
Pages: 0 | ISBN: 978-1-61614-748-8
Published by : Prometheus Books Prometheus Books
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Two veteran math educators demonstrate how some "magnificent mistakes" had profound consequences for our understanding of mathematics' key concepts.

In the nineteenth century, English mathematician William Shanks spent fifteen years calculating the value of pi, setting a record for the number of decimal places. Later, his calculation was reproduced using large wooden numerals to decorate the cupola of a hall in the Palais de la Découverte in Paris. However, in 1946, with the aid of a mechanical desk calculator that ran for seventy hours, it was discovered that there was a mistake in the 528th decimal place. Today, supercomputers have determined the value of pi to trillions of decimal places.

This is just one of the amusing and intriguing stories about mistakes in mathematics in this layperson's guide to mathematical principles. In another example, the authors show that when we "prove" that every triangle is isosceles, we are violating a concept not even known to Euclid - that of "betweenness." And if we disregard the time-honored Pythagorean theorem, this is a misuse of the concept of infinity. Even using correct procedures can sometimes lead to absurd - but enlightening - results.

Requiring no more than high-school-level math competency, this playful excursion through the nuances of math will give you a better grasp of this fundamental, all-important science.
Alfred S. Posamentier

About Alfred S. Posamentier

Alfred S. Posamentier - Magnificent Mistakes in Mathematics
Alfred S. Posamentier is dean of the School of Education and professor of mathematics education at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, New York. Previously, he had the same positions at the City College of the City University of New York for forty years.  He has published over fifty-five books in the area of mathematics and mathematics education, including, most recently, Numbers: Their Tales, Types, and Treasures (with Bernd Thaller) and Mathematical Curiosities: A Treasure Trove of Unexpected Entertainments (with Ingmar Lehmann).


“[F]or me it is the mathematical gaffes the rest of us are more likely to fall for that make Posamentier and Lehmann's book interesting. My favourites are the proofs that involve dividing by zero, leading to results such as 1=2.”

 -New Scientist 

“This volume could be useful to a teacher of mathematics as a source of examples that can hammer home important concepts.”

-Library Journal

“Don’t be scared off by the ‘mathiness’… Magnificent Mistakes in Mathematics is an intriguing read. I’ll bet that even old hands at mathematics will find something new here… a great opportunity as the school year begins, giving us a chance once again to ‘go figure!’” 

-Astro Guyz

“A fairly quick and entertaining read for typical math buffs… I think this somewhat unique approach makes the volume a worthwhile, entertaining addition to one's math bookshelf, and it may be particularly useful to secondary school teachers, providing a lot of grist for instructive, thoughtful examples in the classroom.”


“Advanced math skills are not required to enjoy untangling errors that illustrate concepts in arithmetic, algebra, and more.”
-Science News 

  • Magnificent Mistakes in Mathematics by Alfred S. Posamentier and Ingmar Lehmann
  • August 13, 2013
  • Mathematics
  • Prometheus Books
  • $24.00
  • 9781616147471

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