Single Digits: In Praise of Small Numbers, by Marc Chamberland, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 2015. 240 pp., $26.95 (hardbound). ISBN 9781400865697.
To be more precise, the numbers examined in this book are the counting numbers 1 through 9. Chamberland takes the reader through many different aspects of the use of these numbers, with more pages devoted to the lower numbers. For example, there are 23 pages covering “1,” 45 for “2,” 14 for “8” and 11 for “9.”
There is great breadth in the topics covered, number theory, tilings, packing, dissections, chaos, coding, graph theory and fractals are some of the topics. All are presented in a manner typical of popular mathematics, it takes some mathematical background to understand them, but nothing the follower of popular mathematics will find overwhelming.
There is also no continuity of the story line, one can go to the first page of any of the chapters and begin reading with no lack of context. The chapter title tells you all you need to know about the subject, various ways that that specific number appears in operations.
This is a sound book of popular mathematics, Chamberland covers a lot, in enough background to generate your interest but not so much to overwhelm with detail. He also never shirks from using a formula where one is needed. In a world where some authors lack the courage to use complex formulas, Chamberland stands taller than many of his contemporaries.
This book was made available for free for review purposes