Most of us took mathematics courses from mathematicians—Bad Idea!
Mathematicians see mathematics as an area of study in its own right. The rest of us use mathematics as a precise language for expressing relationships among quantities in the real world, and as a tool for deriving quantitative conclusions from these relationships. For that purpose, mathematics courses, as they are taught today, are seldom helpful and are often downright destructive.
As a student, I promised myself that if I ever became a teacher, I would never put a student through that kind of teaching. I have spent my life trying to find direct and transparent ways of seeing reality and trying to express these insights quantitatively, and I have never knowingly broken my promise.
With rare exceptions, the mathematics that I have found most useful was learned in science and engineering classes, on my own, or from this book. Street-Fighting Mathematicsis a breath of fresh air. Sanjoy Mahajan teaches us, in the most friendly way, tools that work in the real world. Just when we think that a topic is obvious, he brings us up to another level. My personal favorite is the approach to the Navier–Stokes equations: so nasty that I would never even attempt a solution. But he leads us through one, gleaning gems of insight along the way.
In this little book are insights for every one of us. I have personally adopted several of the techniques that you will find here. I recommend it highly to every one of you.
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