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The Vine: November 8, 2013

Submitted by on November 8, 2013 – 1:52 PM15 Comments


I'm looking for a rather specific book recommendation, and I'm not sure quite where to go with it — I'll mention that I live in Asia and have no problem getting Amazon to deliver to me, but for what I'm looking for, it's hard to know what to pick without being able to flip through it first.

I'm an intelligent adult. So, I've been thinking that I should really be able to do math. I know the very basics, but solving a simple ratio is about as far as I can do these days. I did learn higher math in high school and college, but I was just going through the motions without really comprehending or retaining anything. 

I've thought since I was a kid that I'm just "bad at math," but it struck me that if I can easily read college-level books and articles, I should also be able to handle college-level math in my post-college life.

Are there any readers who can recommend a book for self-teaching / re-teaching myself math? I don't just want to memorize formulas — it would preferably be a combination of instruction, real-world applications and/or theory, and practice problems. But I'd settle for two of the three if someone has a strong recommendation. The only thing I don't want is what I had in school — just a couple of sample problems followed by exercises and an answer key in the back. 


Aunt Sally

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  • Leigh in CO says:

    Many years ago, I recall thoroughly enjoying A Tour of the Calculus. It gave me a more…I don't know…literary? view of the subject, and after I finished it, I felt like I knew more about calculus than I ever did when I took it in college. I guess it helped me realize what calculus means, rather than how to just do the mathy part.

  • Loree says:

    Not a book, but Khan Academy may be right up her alley – they do math instruction from 3rd grade arithmetic up through Calculus and Differential Equations.

  • Maria says:

    You might enjoy Danica McKellar's books on math for teen girls. The first one is called "Math Doesn't Suck". She delves into the emotions around feeling that math is hard, which you may appreciate, and her work is geared towards understanding relationships between the kinds of equations. Good luck!!!

  • LisaD says:

    I know this isn't a book recommendation, but have you thought about trying out The Khan Academy? He started out by sharing simple YouTube videos teaching math, and it has grown into this wonderful resource.

  • Jo says:

    I don't know much about specific math books, but when I was in high school, I read a good SAT prep book that was fun and made the studying enjoyable. The hardest math on the SAT is geometry, so it may be too easy for you, but it might be something worth looking at. The book I liked is called "Up Your Score." Obviously, it's not JUST math — there's vocabulary too, and I'm sure they've revised it many times since changing the test, but maybe you can look at it. I wonder if they make something similar for the GRE, which is harder math.

  • scout1222 says:

    PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE tell me that "Aunt Sally" is an intentional reference to the order of operations.

  • Cat says:

    Aunt Sally – If you are open to virtual solutions, I'd recommend having a look at the mathematics component of Khan Academy @ or Coursera. Both are online course platforms with high-quality lectures, including mathematics, and both are completely free!

    Something else you may want to look into is one of the GMAT or GRE study books by Kaplan or Princeton Review. Should be pretty affordable to get an older used copy (since you're not worried about specific test standards and the latest colours). Each book generally starts with a diagnostic then moves you into specific kinds of math review content based on your diagnostic score.

  • Donna says:

    MIT has open courseware available in a number of subjects:

    You could also try the MOOC (Massive open online courses) website:

  • Jessica says:

    Maybe some edu-manga? We have the Manga Guide to Statistics (translated into English) and I was actually relatively impressed by it.

  • Annie GS says:

    I have been having similar conversations with friends lately. One recommended the book Introducing Mathematics by Ziaurddin Sardar. I haven't gotten it yet, but it seems promising!

  • Karen says:

    Forgotten Algebra and Forgotten Calculus by Barbara Lee Bleau.

    Read the text, use a post it note to cover the example, do the example, remove post-it, check your work. Do the problems. Did I say do the problems? You don't learn to drive a manual transmission by reading about it, you learn by doing it. Same thing with math. The key is practice, practice, practice.

    I tutor math for non traditional college students who have forgotten math (if they ever really learned it) and now find when they go back to school that they need it. Bleau's books are the right combination of what you really need to know to understand without being pedantic.

  • saro says:

    Khan Academy seems like it would be the best idea for you. Good luck!

  • Jane says:

    Apps? I love Math Bingo, and Mathemagics taught me quite a few new tricks; those are pretty basic, but I wanted to brush up pretty basic!

  • Shanon says:

    When I had to take the GRE, I was put off entirely by the math section (much for the reasons you mention). I took a practice test and scored something like 250. I got the Kaplan GRE/GMAT Math Workbook and started working through it every day for about 3 months. It starts at "this is an integer" and goes through algebra, geometry, statistics, etc. In the end, I scored 640, AND I can still help my son (now 9th grade) with math.

    A quick Amazon review doesn't show the same workbook I got, but there are two similar ones.

    I also endorse the Khan Academy suggestions. Good luck!

  • Bruce says:

    If you looking for free online math courses / MOOCs try

    It is in a catalog format so it is easy to figure out order to take courses.

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