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Math Dictionary: First Book Ever Purchased

One of the best things in life is finding something that makes you happy. After talking about what made us love Math, thanks to computer programming (coding), I decided to open the gates up by purchasing a book to help me feel welcome: Collins Dictionary of Mathematics. This was purchased at Borders Bookstore at the Canoga Park area in 2009. Even though I was in the Computers & Technology section, this bright blue-covered book stood out to me because I had no idea there was a dictionary based on everything about mathematics, from vocabulary to notations. When I cracked it open to see, something in me began jumping up and down in happiness; My heart was smiling and giving me a hug from the inside. It felt good—good to know that such authors could ever craft something as unique as this. I didn't take long to run over to the counter to complete my purchase of this book, and it was the best $7 I spent. (On another note, I wish Borders Bookstore made a comeback.)

First and foremost, why a math dictionary? As I was a college student that time, I wasn't working yet so a book below $10 was a good choice for me. Now, yes, some of the good ones, or even textbooks made for school are usually the better choices given its content and teaching style (for the most part), but I went with what I could and what money I had. Again, this was in 2009, both math and coding were kind of a niche thing, at least among the locale around my region in California, let alone being surrounded by those wanting/preferring careers in entertainment, but I felt liberated and free being into an area of study that separates me from "everyone else." Anyway, as I would run through and look up terms and notations in this book, I was fascinated; It felt like I was given a tour on the world of Mathematics, and this book was my tour guide.

Secondly, I couldn't just jump into something, cold turkey, as doing so will wear out the novelty quickly for me. I needed something to test the waters and to make sure I can handle it and if it's a subject I want to invest my time in. It's easy to tell yourself you find interest in something but don't come through with it. Because computer programming led me to become interested in mathematics, I wanted to be sure I wasn't spending too much time and money to jump in before knowing that I really like it. With this dictionary, it wasn't too big an investment, and as strange as it may seem going through such book, I kept getting more and more curious. It felt like a world that hasn't been discovered and because of this book, it has helped me to try and discover it.

What can one get from a math dictionary?

Well, it's obviously not something I'd recommend you read from cover to cover. However, I look at it as a "compressed encyclopedia" filled with terms, diagrams, examples and notations for the reader/researcher to look at and find. Then again, there's always the internet to help you out, but for anyone looking for something that's readily available, let alone still believe in the beauty of physical media, this book is great and is perfect for those who are self-taught mathematicians, educators and those whose work involves plenty of research.

It's cool finding terms, equations and functions I never knew existed. I'll get familiar with these eventually, but for now, here are a few examples, starting with Pascal's Wager:

Definition of Pascal's Wager on the Collins Dictionary of Mathematics.

I've heard and seen Pascal's Triangle, but not this "wager." Very neat! Another example I haven't heard of [yet] is this term vinculum:

Symbol of a VINCULUM on the Collins Dictionary of Mathematics.

I'm familiar with the bar over a number, to denote a number that's repeating, and an arrow above a letter known as a vector variable, but I don't recall this kind of symbol. Good to know!

Lastly, here's another example and it's the term vacuous:

The definition of vacuous on the Collins Dictionary of Mathematics.

I have taught myself some Logic, and will need to refresh my knowledge again, but of the books I've read, I don't recall this term being used before (I don't even remember any of the Dover Publication books using it). My my, do we learn something new everyday or what? It's awesome.

Once again, this was all done as a precursor as to what I'm curious about and want to expand my knowledge on, so to speak. Overwhelmed? Not at all, however, there are areas of math I may never familiarize myself with as mentioned on our blog post What Made Us Love Math, and those subjects are Geophysics or Hydrology. However, if I ever have the time, I'll definitely give it a try (if you or anyone you know work or study such subjects, we'd like to hear from you!). I say so because my math focus is centered toward computer science itself, alongside the quantum aspects of it. Seeing that I'm trying to be a bit of a "green thumb" and learning the practice and routine of watering and caring for plants, I'll likely explore how subjects like those use the math to calculate, so don't think I'm counting them out!

Overall, this dictionary may not be the thing you're looking for, nor is it something you may add to your math library, but it's theso small books that make a huge difference whether the author(s) realize it or not. What may look like another "meh" title could be someone's key to inspiration. You just never know, and for those having that same or similar curiosity as I did, I recommend going to a bookstore and seeing books for yourselves. Yeah, you can browse online but in-person browsing at a bookstore or library feels different in a good way. You never know what title, big or small, expensive or cheap, new or used, could be the one book that makes you happy and excited about the world of Mathematics. We wrote this entire article to talk and discuss about it, and that's how much it made an impact, so much so that we opened this sub-domain website for the sake of it!

What book(s) made you curious and excited for Math? Do you still have the book? Would you recommend it to others and/or to us? Let's talk about it on the comments section below!


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