Mathematical Digest

Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematics
in the Popular Press

"A Mind for Math": Review of The Math Gene: How Mathematical Thinking Evolved and Why Numbers Are Like Gossip by Keith Devlin. Reviewed by Lynn Arthur Steen. American Scientist, November/December 2000, pages 555-556.

In The Math Gene, Keith Devlin presents a new theory about mathematical ability and how it evolved. He contends that abstract reasoning about mathematical objects is similar to the kind of reasoning people use to understand human relationships---and this is the reason he likens numbers to gossip in the title of the book. The review describes the book's main line of argument as proceeding along several parallel tracks, which involve the nature of mathematics, the nature of language, and hominid evolution. Steen writes: "It follows, contrary to popular wisdom, that everyone has a metaphorical `math gene.'"

--- Allyn Jackson