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Problem solving rules are for fools, says streetfighting mathematician

The New York Times has an interesting Q&A with Sanjoy Mahajan, author of Street-Fighting Mathematics, that delivers his take on the Gulf Oil spill, and the relationship between stair-climbing and eating jelly doughnuts. Here’s the promo spiel for his book…

In problem solving, as in street fighting, rules are for fools: do whatever works—don’t just stand there! Yet we often fear an unjustified leap even though it may land us on a correct result. Traditional mathematics teaching is largely about solving exactly stated problems exactly, yet life often hands us partly defined problems needing only moderately accurate solutions. This engaging book is an antidote to the rigor mortis brought on by too much mathematical rigor, teaching us how to guess answers without needing a proof or an exact calculation.

Under a business model that makes no sense at all to us, the PDF of his book is also provided for free.

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  1. Colleen Young
    July 28, 2010 at 11:25 am

    Thank you very much for this link.

    I was interested in your comment on the model of providing the pdf for free. I am always impressed by those who offer a genuinly good free deal. In fact I think I am more likely to sign up with such companies.

    Look at WordPress itself (which I see you are using for this blog) – I think a fantastic model – all the basics completely free – no annoying adverts – just one subtle line at the bottom of the page. I have several WordPress blogs – all for free – it has always been reliable, support answered my queries when I had a couple. If I needed to upgrade to a paid for service I have no doubt whatsoever which platform I would use.

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