I hope you agree with me that falling asleep in class is, well, not a good idea. I also hope you agree with me that it is an important skill to be able to learn from reading. Unfortunately, I had never seriously put that thought into action—until, heh, until I read The Man Who Counted, by Malba Tahan (in real life, Júlio César de Mello e Sousa). This book is, on the level-of-reading scale, “medium.” It is about a man, called Hanak Tade Maia, who meets a mathematical genius, Beremiz Samir, on the road to Baghdad, Iraq. On the way to Baghdad, Beremiz and Hanak confront many riddles and seemingly impossible every-day problems. This book enlightened me on a subject, math, which I had always thought was a bit boring. The Man Who Counted is totally one of those books you’d call a “good read.”
I’m not surprised (only disappointed) if you are saying to yourself right now, “Why would I even bother reading this dumb book? It’s probably a boring bunch of math facts with weird people shoved in, to make it more like a story. Gah. Like I’d read that.” But the truth is, it’s not! This story is slam-packed full of little mathematical coincidences that really awe you. Nope, this is not a lie. For example, did you know that the divisors of 284 (1, 2, 4, 71 and 142) add up to 220, and that the divisors of 220 (1, 2, 4, 5, 10, 22, 44, 55, and 110) add up to 284? I found that really interesting because it was something I had never thought of, kind of like a friendship between numbers. Wow. Anyways, the main thing I wanted to say in this paragraph is that this is not just a bunch of facts, if I hadn’t made myself clear.
The story in itself is extremely realistic. No, I don’t mean that it’s normal to meet a mathematical genius every day, but this book transports you to 13th century Baghdad. You can see in your mind’s eye bustling streets with merchants calling out for customers, inns alive with chatter, and grand palaces. Of course, Islamic traditions are NOT omitted, and I think that without them, The Man Who Counted would not seem so realistic.
This book enchanted me with its mathematical adventures, even though math is not my forte.
You can buy the book here.