Review: The Story of Maths

A couple of weeks ago, I got a “recommendation” from Netflix about a show called “The Story of Maths“, so I tossed it on my list to watch.

Last night, I was playing bachelor, so I fired it up. It is a BBC created series, with 4 one hour episodes (57 – 58 minutes each), with an engaging host, Marcus du Sautoy, who provides a lively narration. I watched the first two episodes (The Language of the Universe, and The Genius of the East), and was impressed.

The focus is on the story, and he tells a (brief) compelling tale around the origins of mathematics, and the contributions of the Babylonians, the Egyptians, and the Greeks in the first episode, and then moves into the Chinese, Indians and Arabs in the second, before the West becomes a significant contributor.

As one with a degree in physics, and a passion to understand the history of mathematics discoveries, I found the shows to be tractable, and illuminating. Who would have thought that the Egyptians had a very binary like method of multiplying?

I popped over to Amazon, and looked it up, and of course, for us Yanks, they call the DVD set “The Story of Math” instead of using the proper term, “Maths”, but I will forgive them. Well reviewed, I did drop into one of the 1 star reviews, a high school math teacher who was disappointed that they didn’t go deeper. FFS, in 4 hours, they cover 5,000 years of mathematics, what do you expect.

For the lay people, I highly recommend the series. Light, fun, engaging, and worthy spend of your viewing time.

Why is the proper use “Maths” not “Math”? Because, the full word is “Mathematics”, and the accepted shortening of the word is “Maths” as used by our British brethren. Us Yanks feel that sounds strange, so we drop the “S” at the end. But we’re wrong.