Book: How to Build a Brain

How-to-build-a-brain-cover   mathematics without the boring bits cover   davincicover   How to build a brain Korean cover   como-contar-hasta-el-infinito-cover   how_to_build_a_brain_Chinese_cover   turkishcover   breincover

This page is for reviews (hooray!) and errata (boo!) relating to my multiply entitled pop-maths book.

If you know of anything which should be here but isn’t, I would be immensely grateful if you could email me at r [DOT] elwes [AT] gmail [DOT] com or leave a comment on my blog.




“The more you read this book, the more you will understand how so much of the world about you can be seen in the form of numbers and mathematics… even at my age, I’ve learnt a lot from this book…. I can see teenagers and adults digging into this book for insights on all manner of things related to maths. A great learning experience.”

– Geoff Willmetts at SF Crowsnest


“It’s quite refreshing to find a book on maths that is so upbeat and infectious as ‘How to build a brain’…. Topics as diverse as number theory, chaos, the famous P=NP problem, complexity and game theory, among others, are given the Elwes treatment. The writing is concise and always engaging, challenging the reader to think along the examples he presents. … a fun ride through mathematics and its developments, a great read for any teen or adult who thought the subject daunting. Anyone who reads it will not only end up learning a little more, but surely be amazed as to where maths pops up.”

– Linda I. Uruchurtu at Plus Magazine


“Wow! Interesting! Fascinating! Here is a brilliantly conceived book on the history, working and going-ons of mathematics…. this book presents the “science” of maths like never before. Go out and get a copy for yourself today and become the maths boffin your teacher always wished you were!”

– Waldo Malan at Vision Magazine


“I wanted to brush up my math knowledge and was on search for good math books. Luckily I found ‘How to build a brain’. Good book for a great start on mathematics.”

– Satya Sekhar Poduri Srinivasa


“lots of interesting anecdotes and historical stories… a very good bedtime read”


“at 200 pages it serves up math in very palatable bite-size nuggets, often introducing some topic in a page or less… and it only brings up the sort of topics a non-professional math person will find fun or interesting. The selection is excellent, the format attractive, and the writing entertaining and engaging.

“Elwes really seem[s] to have a knack for this sort of writing (making math interesting!!). I especially love the breadth of topics… and the clear, playful nature of the presentation”


– Shecky R at Math Frolic


“I just want to say that this book is kind of awesome despite my apathy-at-best attitude towards math… if you want a math book that isn’t horrible, and math is pretty important in our technologically advanced world, this is a good one.”



“I really enjoyed this book. It could be argued that the format and cover give the feel that it is going to be a bit lightweight. Not at all, some of the subjects covered are quite complex but presented in an accessible way. This will appeal to anyone who already has an interest in Mathematics and would serve as a great introduction to the subject for anyone new to it.”




“…a terrific collection of short essays on numerous topics, including the dinner party problem, the four-color map problem, Cantor’s theory of sets, and lots more. This book has the single best explanation of Euler’s Formula (e + 1 = 0) that I’ve ever seen in print. And it completely blew my mind showing Ramanujan and Hardy’s estimate of the number of partitions of any number n…. a very enjoyable read, highly recommended for all lovers of math.”




“This fascinating book is subtitled And 34 Other Really Interesting Uses of Mathematics. Forget the equations you tried to solve at school and enter the mind-expanding world of modern mathematics. Tricky concepts including irrational numbers, chaos theory, infinity, and why veggie and fruit shops always stack their oranges like that, are explained in a way that everyone can understand.”



“I’m 63 years old. Have read probably three books in my life that have really impressed me – [How to Build a Brain] is the latest one. Excellent, can’t put it down”


– Michael Roberts



“This is a wonderful book. Richard Elwes writes fluently about a subject for which he is clearly passionate… When you’ve finished this book, you will have had a good introduction to the broad sweep of mathematics and have been introduced to many notable mathematicians and their contributions, from Hippasus, through Euler and Hilbert, to Nash.”




“Applied Math with a fun twist… This book cuts through the gobbledygook and still uses math to help us get an understanding of 35 key math ideas. In the process it still uses practical math. Luckily if you forgot most of math or are starting from scratch the book will bring you up to speed in a genital [sic(!)] way…. the innards on each subject will allow you to go way beyond magazine articles and hold your own with any digital geek. Most of the concepts allow you to see the real world and are not just math games.”




“i never imagined i would enjoy mathematics so much”


“A good primer for a freshman… Well written… It would be great if you are considering the subject as a major”


“Een fantastisch boek voor iedereen die wiskunde een warm hart toedraagt…. Populaire boeken over wiskunde zijn weinig talrijk; daarom een aanrader.”


“Dit is de perfecte introductie tot de wondere wereld van wiskunde.”



(These relate to the first printing of the English language version of the book; they have been put right in subsequent versions.)


Page 99, paragraph 3. Francis Guthrie was British by birth, and later moved to South Africa.


Page 129, lines 2&3: “A soccer ball has 12 pentagonal faces and 20 hexagonal ones.”


Page 209, line 3: “…The BB dog’s grandchildren,…”