The Calculus of Happiness: How a Mathematical Approach to Life Adds Up to Health, Wealth, and Love, by Oscar E. Fernandez, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 2017. 176 pp., $24.95 (hardbound). ISBN9780691168630.
Five out of five stars
To the mathematician, the title is a bit misleading, for there is really nothing in the areas of differential and integral calculus. The content used in the descriptions and explanations is that found in standard college algebra and precalculus classes. This points out the most obvious use of the book, as a source of material for “real world” examples in such classes. Linear, polynomial, exponential and logarithmic functions are all used to compute ways to increase happiness.
The paths to happiness are losing weight, reasonably accurate metrics for predicting lifespan, eating the right foods in the correct amounts, performing a detailed budget analysis, the most efficient and effective ways to invest money and equations that can be used to predict the number of people in an area that are your best matches for personal relationships. Successfully following these paths is demonstrated using equations based on data and very justifiable assumptions, making them excellent examples for the classroom.
It is a good bet that there is not an experienced math teacher on the planet that has not heard the question in an algebra class, “What will we ever use this stuff for?” This book contains many effective responses.