The following review of 2021 Mathical Honor Book It’s a Numberful World by Eddie Woo was submitted by California high school student Madeleine de Belloy.
It’s a Numberful World by Eddie Woo is a great introduction to mathematics! The book is divided into 26 chapters covering topics that range from explaining why lightning and your veins share a similar structure to Ramsey Theory. Woo manages to make complex math super accessible by weaving it into interesting stories about the world around us. The range of topics covered is quite broad yet you finish each chapter satisfied and intrigued by the fascinating patterns Woo unveils. Who would have thought that the golden ratio appears both in a sunflower and in the Fibonacci sequence?
I particularly enjoyed the discussion about optical distortion in chapter 15 because it’s really interesting to see that some things we take for granted, such as the pointy shape of a star, don’t actually reflect reality. We only perceive stars this way because of suture lines in our eye. I also loved the “Mathemagic” chapter as some relatively simple algebra produces a rather perplexing magic trick. I’ve even practiced the trick from chapter 22 on my brothers multiple times. Although the vast majority of Eddie Woo’s explanations are clear and easy to follow, chapter 20, “Six is a crowd”, is a little bit muddled by the comparison of mathematical proofs with a courtroom.
I think this book is best suited for anyone in middle school or above as it requires little previous knowledge of “classic” math to enjoy. The chapters on number theory and knot theory are easy to follow and understand but are still good introductions to interesting branches of mathematics. Although it’s a relatively easy read, the book is still worthwhile for people with a more solid base in math as it also covers many great lesser-known patterns. You may have known that the golden ratio appears in the Fibonacci sequence, but did you know there’s an even more “golden” Lucas sequence with many more patterns hidden inside? Woo’s love for math truly shines through in this delightful book!
[Note from the Mathical Books team: If you enjoy It’s a Numberful World, you can also find the author at WooTube, his popular YouTube channel where he explains math concepts!]
Madeleine de Belloy is a Franco-American high school student living in the San Francisco Bay Area. Madeleine loves math, particularly number theory, and is involved in the preparation program for the French Math Olympiad team and Math en Jeans, a math research program. She has both attended and taught at math circles and spends her summers at math camps.