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Computational Complexity: Books to Inspire Math

Two of my colleagues and co-authors from my early days at the University of Chicago have released books over the past few months designed to excite people with math, Howard Karloff’s Mathematical Thinking: Why Everyone Should Study Math and Lide Li’s Math Outside the Classroom. Karloff was a fellow professor and Li was my PhD student. Neither are currently in academia but both still found the need to inspire young people in mathematics.

Both books aim to make math fun, away from the rote problem solving from high school and early calculus courses to concepts like prime and irrational numbers (Karloff) and sequences and geometric shapes (Li). The books have some overlap, both cover deriving e from interest rates and probability including the Monty Hall problem. Both books have lots of problems to work on. 

Between the two I would suggest Karloff’s book for junior high/high school age kids and Li’s book for older high school and early college students given the topics covered.

At a time that math plays a larger role in our society, especially dealing with data, finding ways to get more young people interested in mathematics is important. These books fill an important niche for the mathematically curious students to dive in topics they won’t likely see in their math classes. Great to see my former colleagues taking the time to reach these students through these books. 

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