Brian Rotman

X Marks the Spot

Enlightening Symbols: A Short History of Mathematical Notation and its Hidden Powers


Princeton University Press 285pp £19.95 order from our bookshop

Enlightening Symbols is mostly a historical study of the mathematical symbols we encounter in school arithmetic and elementary algebra, informed by a larger interest in the formidable utility mathematical symbols possess. What it offers is not a general or theoretical study of mathematical symbols per se (which the title might suggest), but an informative, highly readable and scholarly history of a small but fundamental subset of symbols familiar from the schoolroom in two parts, followed by a third which attempts to bring to light their hidden power.

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