Old men from the 19th century

Almost every evening, before going to bed, we are reading books and Simon mostly prefers math adventures. Russian author Vladimir Levshin (1904-1984) published several books about geometry, algebra and math history, with numbers and letters as the leading characters. Most chapters contain complicated riddles that we solve along the way. Sometimes, Simon gets up to fetch some paper and pencils to write down what he thinks the formula or the geometrical pattern should be for a particular story. And because Levshin’s books often mention famous mathematicians of the past, I see Simon learn about history through math. What he knows about Ancient Greece or the 1970’s mainly comes from his interest in early math and geometry or the dawn of computer science.

A couple days ago we were reading about George Boole, yet another example of someone way ahead of his time (200 years to be precise), the inventor of Boolean algebra. Simon was so excited when he recognized his name, and the name of Georg Cantor, a German mathematician, whose work was just as shocking to his contemporaries as Boole’s work was. Simon recognized both of their names because of his programming. This way, a connection was traced in his mind between these two 19th century men and today’s cutting edge projects in Java and JavaScript.

Here Simon was drawing his impressions of Cantor’s set theory, inspired by a passage about him in Levshin’s book:



Levshin’s book that we’re reading now:DSC_0467

Passage on Boole and Cantor:



Another book by Levshin we have recently read, about Algebra:


A chapter from that book talking about finding a sum of all the members of an arithmetic progression:



Simon stormed out the bedroom and came back with a sheet of paper where he wrote down the formula, before we read about it in the book (he often tries to come up with his own formulas):


The same formula in the book:



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