At Zero we read “Matemática: o que você quer saber?” by Anne Rooney

Interesting how in the history of Mathematics we see that several discoveries (let’s call it that) occurred in completely independent ways by a simple progress of science/society. It’s not as if one person/group found that result and the others copied it. Of course, today with the development of instant communication means, it is increasingly easier to discover what has already developed in a certain area of ​​knowledge, thus avoiding “repeated discoveries”. A mathematical discovery made here on Earth or on a small planet billions of light years away will have the same validity, since the concepts are identical. But this is an interesting point to think about from a research perspective, especially in Human Sciences, as “repeating” only loses interest when the objects of study have very similar characteristics. If we think about the human aspect behind the scientific dissemination of mathematics, the same topic can be approached in the same way by different people (who do not know each other) and still produce very different results.

To illustrate this situation, yesterday I marathoned the book “Matemática: o que você quer saber?” by Anne Rooney and I felt that same feeling that although the author and I had never talked or knew each other’s work, several of the posts on this blog are very related to the chapters in this book. I saw themes that are very similar to those I’ve discussed in this blog, but the way we present and explore the issues is very far away.

It’s not as if one copied the other, or that one of us was the “true author” behind that idea. The fact is much simpler, that scientific progress occurs on different fronts, leveraged by factors common to society. For example, through the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a huge stimulus from different parties for the production of scientific dissemination content related to the pandemic and other common aspects. As with the interest in chess, many people come to write materials on this topic, not necessarily that the “repeated” ideas produced are a copy of other authors, but simply an indication that knowledge about that topic is developed in similar directions, as occurred in scientific progress in the history of Mathematics and other Sciences. Of course, my way of writing is very different from her way, but in several texts I read, I recognized the same ideas and proposals of concern suggested to the reader.

I thought it was a very cool book, the author managed, with a strong mastery of mathematical history interrelated to other everyday matters, to present the most diverse aspects of mathematics in a smooth and thought-provoking reading, without getting caught up in the proposal to explain that a math book would have . The only drawback of this book is that the chapters are very short, you are in the middle of reading, wanting to know more and see more about the topic, when it ends, leaving you at ease. But maybe this is a problem for me as a mathematician, as I like to read Mathematics textbooks (which are not very palatable), so thinking about the purpose of the book as instigating the reader’s curiosity and interest in the topic, it’s a success.

I consider this a very nice work for those who would like to better understand this smoothness that involves the scientific dissemination of mathematics. But I suggest you read her other book “História da Matemática” first, because together they make a much more fruitful combination. The author herself demonstrates an absurd mastery of the History of Mathematics and an incredible notion about how seriously it is necessary to insert in her text to leave it stimulating and with content that makes us reflect on our lives.

It even has a chapter on the issue of COVID-19 which is quite relevant in terms of the role of vaccination and the risk of a pandemic. This is perhaps a topic that is not so simple to understand at first glance, but it is well worth the effort. In fact, in 2020, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the professor at the Institute of Mathematics, Statistics and Scientific Computing at Unicamp, Samuel Rocha de Oliveira (my doctoral advisor), gave an excellent lecture on Opportunities for teaching mathematics in the context of COVID-19 goes well with this Anne Rooney chapter.

So, it is a recommendation to read this book both for you who would like to start venturing into science dissemination of mathematics, and for you who have never been very fond of mathematics, but would like to rethink this love-hate relationship that school sometimes gives us 🙂

I thank Editora M.Books for the courtesy book “Matemática: o que você quer saber?” by Anne Rooney, who enabled the production of this text.

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