How to Read Mathematics

When I was a small kid, my grandfather used to teach me how to read English. I was born in India, so we did not get to reading English till we were 6 or 7. His technique was simple. He would mark portions of a sentence with a vertical mark (in pencil). He told us that we need to pause at the vertical bar, at comma and a pause a bit more at the period.

I wish I had seen this article on How to Read Mathematics, when I was young, since it was one of my favorite subjects. This is a profound statement, a quote in the article, made me take a quick read.

“Reading Mathematics … involves a return to the thinking that went into the writing” (ibid page 16).

Here are a list of things to do (in a nutshell).

  • Don’t miss the big picture
  • Don’t be a passive reader
  • Don’t read too fast
  • Make the idea your own
  • Make sure that you are the intended audience

The Example of Mathematical writing towards the end, is a clear step by step dialog on applying these techniques.

For more math blogs try

4 thoughts on “How to Read Mathematics

  1. This article is now part of a book.

    My new book Rediscovering Mathematics is now finished and available.

    The book is aimed at a general audience and addresses the question of how best to teach and study mathematics. The book attempts to bring the exciting and dynamic world of mathematics to a non-technical audience. With so much focus today on how best to educate the new generation and make mathematics less rote and more interactive, this book is an eye-opening experience for many people who suffered with dull math teachers and curricula.

    The book is listed at MAA or Amazon.

    1. Shai,
      Congratulations. It is no mean feat to write a book of this type. I will check it out. Let me know how I can help. I can blog about it, tweet about its availability (will do right away). I strongly believe in this cause and the need to increase awareness of how to learn. A book like this will go a long way to help.

      If there is any way, I can help, please let me know.

  2. Went to Amazon and found that it was sold out. Put it on my wish list. I would love to get a version on Kindle. Right now I am in India and buy all my books on Kindle. Anyway, if it is available when I get back to US in mid April, will try to get a copy.

Comments are closed.