Maths reading books for non-reading ds applying to Uni

(21 Posts)
GrumpyOldBag Sat 01-Oct-16 10:46:15

DS is good at Maths and is hoping for a place at one of the top 10 Unis for Maths. He has a 'Maths brain' but had S&L difficulties when younger & has never read for pleasure - however hard I tried with books about football stats etc & stuff he's interested in, he never got beyond a few pages. He did manage to get an A in his English GCSEs but had exceptionally good teachers.

The Unis seem to expect evidence of lots of additional reading about Maths-related subjects in the UCAS form. I have no idea how to get DS to do this - wondered if anyone else has been through this, and did you find any Maths-related books your ds enjoyed that you could recommend? DH is trying to get him to read Fermat's Last Theorem which we both enjoyed when it first came out but there must be other stuff out there.

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mumsiedarlingrevolta Sat 01-Oct-16 10:56:19

I think UCAS like the reading to show interest in the topic-intellectual curiosity etc. My son read some Stephen Hawking-think you could go to a bookstore and have a browse as I always find that inspirational. Also wondering if you might try some books that you can download and he can listen to them on phone/laptop?

GrumpyOldBag Sat 01-Oct-16 11:02:28

Thanks for responding - DS has a bit of a fixed mindset (slightly ASD) so intellectual curiosity isn't a phrase that I'd associate with him.

I was hoping it wouldn't be as much of an issue for Maths as he is good at it & loves it. But listening to stuff is a great idea.

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user1474361571 Sat 01-Oct-16 11:04:17

The Unis seem to expect evidence of lots of additional reading about Maths-related subjects in the UCAS form.

??? Why do you say this?

They want you to be interested in maths and to have explored maths beyond your A level textbooks. This is not the same thing as reading popular science books about maths.

If he doesn't like reading much, don't force him. You could get him to pick his favourite part of maths A level, then get him a first year undergraduate book on it (e.g. calculus, differential equations, linear algebra), work through it a bit and write about that instead. I presume he would much prefer to work through some real maths, than read a popular maths book?

Or, instead of the usual Iain Stewart, Marcus du Sautoy, Simon Singh, get classic books such as

- The Moscow Puzzles, 359 Mathematical Recreations, by Kordemsky
- Disquisitiones Arithmeticae, by Gauss (quite high level)
- The Theoretical Minimum, by Susskind (mathematical physics)


- Flatland, by Abbott

Others will come along and tell you about how much they like popular maths books, but it's not an issue if he doesn't, provided he enjoys actually doing mathematics.

user1474361571 Sat 01-Oct-16 11:04:53

Susskind is a lot easier to read than Hawking, but it is the same subject area.

GrumpyOldBag Sat 01-Oct-16 11:13:19

I say it user because that is what we were told at the Imperial Open Day and others.

Your list of suggestions is just what I was hoping to get on here. I only mentioned Simon Singh because that's the only Maths type book I know and have read and we already have it in the house (I did PPE at Uni, DH did Physics and rarely reads books for pleasure).

I completely agree that forcing him would be counterproductive. I hope we can find something that will work. DS doesn't like to take advice unfortunately, and then when it's too late he says "I wish I'd done ...".

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Haffdonga Sat 01-Oct-16 11:25:34

Ds1 is similar to yours but doing a science subject rather than maths at a 'good' uni. In his UCAS statement we he wrote about a related book he had read including some specific points of interest.

In fact he had never read the book, only read the blurb, reviews on the internet and looked up the page in the index on the point of interest he mentioned

He didn't get asked about the book in any of the 4 interviews he attended.


yoink Sat 01-Oct-16 11:37:25

I listen to text books when I can as I fall asleep after a couple of pages (years of reading in bed has conditioned me).

Have a look on audible:

noblegiraffe Sat 01-Oct-16 11:51:53

Someone involved with maths admissions at uni said on another thread that they didn't want someone who didn't like reading pretending at interview that they'd enjoyed reading popular maths books when actually they'd either not read them, or read them under sufferance and didn't get anything from them. They suggested (as upthread) accessing online undergraduate maths course notes from target universities and working through those instead. This shows the requisite enthusiasm for maths that goes beyond the curriculum and an awareness of university maths (which is very different to school maths).

user1474361571 Sat 01-Oct-16 11:55:28

If applying for a course that interviews (very few maths courses do), don't put a book you haven't read. It's such a silly thing to do. I've lost track of the number of students I have asked about the du Sautoy, Stewart books they claim to have read and then get blank faces followed by panic and waffle.

I'm very surprised that Imperial would say that you need to read popular maths books for the personal statement although they do read the PS.

I guess you know that many of the top 10 maths courses won't be reading the PS much if at all as they make offers based on grades/predicted grades? Bath, Warwick etc offer to everybody who looks capable of making the standard offer.

senua Sat 01-Oct-16 12:52:37

Surely the PS is to demonstrate your enthusiasm for the subject. If you evidence it by reading then talk about that (books you have read and your reaction to them). If it's by other means then talk about that instead.

GrumpyOldBag Sat 01-Oct-16 14:46:42

user Imperial didn't say read 'popular' maths books, they said read a range of non-course books.

However the only maths books I know of are what you call 'popular' ones, which is why I cited that as an example. I also thought my son might find them easier to read.

I am just trying to understand what they may be looking for (thanks for your help clarifying that), and find something which will be accessible for my son who has great difficulty reading.

Interestingly, Oxford seemed to care far less about this - although DS has unfortunately decided he doesn't want to apply there.

senua I think you are right & i don't want to push him to do something that's not right for him. Maybe I am being too formulaic about it.

We have just had a conversation about it.
Me: Which bit of Maths do you like best
DS: Algebra
Me: What is it about Algebra that interests you?
DS: I just like it.


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LikelyLama Sat 01-Oct-16 15:07:41

My DD hadn't read any maths books when she applied but she demonstrated her interest in maths in other ways such as talking about doing math tuition, doing maths taster days (London taster days), doing a residential maths Headstart course and competing in Maths competitions. She also made it very clear why she had chosen the courses she had choosen. She wasn't applying for the top top courses though.wink
She got the impression that it was all about how good you are at maths.

Are there any maths based games he likes or can he talk about a maths based career that he is interested in. Does he do programming, if so perhaps he could talk about that instead. Im not sure if reading a book for the sake of it is a good idea.

PeaStalks Sat 01-Oct-16 15:42:46

I agree that offers are made based on grades and not the PS.
While he might enjoy reading about maths you can't force it.
DS, also not a natural reader, did read a lot of Maths and Physics books simply because he enjoyed them. He did mention some of them on his PS, but it was mostly about areas of maths that interested him. He applied for five top courses and got offers from all five, only one interviewed and the interview was entirely maths questions, nothing about his PS or particular area of interest and certainly nothing about books he had read.

I see nothing wrong with reading popular maths books if your DS enjoyed them, they may lead him to find out more about particular topics.If he struggles with reading he may still manage the Ian Stewart books such as Alex's Adventures in Numberland. Or even try Flatlands?

CancellyMcChequeface Sat 01-Oct-16 16:02:38

He might enjoy 'Satan, Cantor and Infinity' by Raymond Smullyan which is about set theory - it's an easier read and includes lots of mathematical puzzles to illustrate the points made.

I read Brian Clegg's 'A Brief History of Infinity' at around his age and really enjoyed it, too.

GrumpyOldBag Sat 01-Oct-16 16:56:08

maths based career

Does online poker count?

Interesting that ability in maths is the main factor, which is what I was hoping ...

Thanks, all, for other suggestions. Will buy and see if any appeal.

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user1474361571 Sat 01-Oct-16 17:00:13

Online poker could count, if he argued that he's developing and using mathematical algorithms while playing.

GrumpyOldBag Sat 01-Oct-16 17:13:00

He may well be user but he probably couldn't articulate it!

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hellsbells99 Sat 01-Oct-16 20:22:54

My DD put about maths mentoring, maths and science competitions, which bits of maths she enjoyed and why. She also talked about the links between maths and music (her hobby).
A good quirky book is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime

FrankJ Sun 02-Oct-16 09:11:35

Grumpy For more algebra reading you could try

Unknown Quantity: A Real and Imaginary History of Algebra - Derbyshire
(second hand versions seem very cheap)

A popular read, but one include quite a bit of detail about the maths, and introducing readers to new ideas of algebra beyond that of everyday numbers

The Mathematics of Ciphers: Number Theory and RSA Cryptography - Coutinho (not cheap ~£40)

A maths text book but needing little mathematical knowledge as a prerequisite. A mixture of algebra and number theory, showing the applications to internet security.

a7mints Fri 21-Oct-16 21:20:56

The simon singh books are easy reading and entertaining maths books.

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