Home ›
Author: Helen Joyce
If "How to solve it" really contained an infallible recipe for doing so, mathematics would not be mathematics and the world would be quite different. Of course it doesn't  it can't  but it can  and does  contain a great deal of food for thought for the budding mathematician.
Like many other Central Europeans, Pólya relocated to the US at the beginning of the Second World War. There he worked at Stanford University and wrote this immensely successful book (more than a million copies sold) in 1945.

This book is built on an extended metaphor, which casts equations as the poetry of science. According to the editor Graham Farmelo (head of Science Communication at the Science Museum in London), great equations and great poems are alike in a number of ways. Both suffer if anything is added, changed, or taken away, both are a rich stimulus to the prepared imagination, and both draw much of their power from their conciseness.

As Tony Gardiner says in at the beginning of this book, "the last ten years or so has seen a remarkable blossoming of public interest in mathematics [but] most of the books produced have been for adults, rather than for students. Moreover, most are in prose format  for those who want to 'read about' mathematics, rather than those who want to get their hands dirty solving problems."

Science writer and exhibition researcher Alison Boyle tells Plus about her work creating uptotheminute news exhibits at the Science Museum in London.

Neuropsychologist Brian Butterworth tells us about research showing that even newborn babies have a basic understanding of number. It seems we are all mathematicians!


The famous mathematician Euclid is credited with being the first person to axiomatise the geometry of the world we live in  that is, to describe the geometric rules which govern it. Based on these axioms, he proved theorems  some of the earliest uses of proof in the history of mathematics. 
One of the most puzzling aspects of human behaviour is cooperation, in situations where backstabbing and selfishness would seem to be more rewarding. From the point of view of evolutionary theory, the very existence of altruism and cooperation appear mysterious. 