The output of math writing has steadily increased in volume and quality with major articles appearing in math journals like Notices of the American Mathematical Society, Communications of the ACM, and Math Horizons; generalinterest publications like Slate, American Scientist and Foreign Affairs; and still more in disciplinary journals like Physics Today, The American Statistician or Chance. Editor Mircea Pitici reads them all and selects the best of the best for this annual series. The Best Writing on Mathematics is an expertly curated annual celebration of important math writing (or speaking, as you will see below).
Among the many highlights of the 2014 edition are Kenneth Cukier and Viktor MayerSchönberger explaining “The Rise of Big Data” and its impact on the world; SarahMarie Belcastro describing her “Adventures in Mathematical Knitting;” Tanya Khovanova solving “Conway’s Wizards;” Jordan Ellenberg on a recent breakthrough in the study of prime numbers; Brian Hayes on “Crinkly Curves;” and Keith Devlin describing what makes a video game good for learning mathematics and showing why many games fall short of that goal. John Conway presents examples of arithmetical statements that are almost certainly true but likely unprovable; Carlo Séquin explores, compares, and illustrates distinct types of onesided surfaces known as Klein bottles; and Stephen Pollard argues that mathematical practice, thinking, and experience transcend the utilitarian value of mathematics. Also included here, for the first time in print, is the text of a talk given by Francis Edward Su on the occasion of receiving the 2013 Haimo Award for Distinguished Teaching.
We hope you will join us in celebrating these excellent articles and speeches from the previous year!
Complete list of selections for
The Best Writing on Mathematics: 2014
(presented in the order of the Table of Contents)
Mathematics and the Good Life, Stephen Pollard (originally appearing in Philosophia Mathematica)
The Rise of Big Data: How It’s Changing the Way We Think about the World, Kenneth Cukier and Viktor MayerSchönberger (originally appearing in Foreign Affairs)
Conway’s Wizards, Tanya Khovanova (originally appearing on The Mathematical Intelligencer)
On Unsettleable Arithmetical Problems, John H. Conway (originally appearing in The American Mathematical Monthly)
Crinkly Curves, Brian Hayes (originally appearing in American Scientist)
Why Do We Perceive Logarithmically? Lav R. Varshney and John Z. Sun (originally appearing in Significance)
The Music of Math Games, Keith Devlin (originally appearing in American Scientist)
The Fundamental Theorem of Algebra for Artists, Bahman Kalantari and Bruce Torrence (originally appearing in Math Horizons)
The Arts–Digitized, Quantified, and Analyzed, Nicole Lazar (originally appearing in Chance)
On the Number of Klein Bottle Types, Carlo H. Séquin (originally appearing in Journal of Mathematics and the Arts)
Adventures in Mathematical Knitting, SarahMarie Belcastro (originally appearing in American Scientist)
The Mathematics of Fountain Design: A MultipleCenters Activity, Marshall Gordon (originally appearing in Teaching Mathematics and Its Applications)
Food for (Mathematical) Thought, Penelope Dunham (originally appearing in PRIMUS)
Wondering about Wonder in Mathematics, Dov Zazkis and Rina Zazkis (originally appearing in Wonderfull)
The Lesson of Grace in Teaching, Francis Edward Su (originally appearing on Mathematical Yawp)
Generic Proving: Reflections on Scope and Method, Uri Leron and Orit Zaslavsky (originally appearing in For the Learning of Mathematics)
Extreme Proofs I: The Irrationality of 2, John H. Conway and Joseph Shipman (originally appearing in Mathematical Intelligencer)
Stuck in the Middle: Cauchy’s Intermediate Value Theorem and the History of Analytic Rigor, Michael J. Barany (originally appearing in Notices of the AMS)
Plato, Poincaré, and the Enchanted Dodecahedron: Is the Universe Shaped Like the Poincaré Homology Sphere? Lawrence Brenton (originally appearing in Math Horizons)
Computing with Real Numbers, from Archimedes to Turing and Beyond, Mark Braverman (originally appearing in Communications of the ACM)
Chaos at Fifty, Adilson E. Motter and David K. Campbell (originally appearing in Physics Today)
TwentyFive Analogies for Explaining Statistical Concepts, Roberto Behar, Pere Grima, and Lluís MarcoAlmagro (originally appearing in The American Statistician)
College Admissions and the Stability of Marriage, David Gale and Lloyd S. Shapley (originally appearing in The American Mathematical Monthly)
The Beauty of Bounded Gaps, Jordan Ellenberg (originally appearing on Slate)
We welcome suggestions, comments, and materials for consideration for future volumes. To provide feedback, please contact editor Mircea Pitici.

The Best Writing on Mathematics 2014 Edited by Mircea Pitici 