Mathematics

Soccernomics: Why Transfers Fail, Why Spain Rule the World and Other Curious Football Phenomena Explained, by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski

Lots of us learned about percentages and statistics by studying batting averages, and many of our students are passionately choosing players for fantasy leagues in various sports. Is it possible to find methods for the evaluation of players in soccer using methods similar to those in "Moneyball"? This question and many others are addressed in "Soccernomics"

Mammogram Math (The Way We Live Now)

Imagine a highly reliable cancer test. It detects 95% of a certain type of cancer, and has a "false positive" rate of only 1%. This test is used on a population in which this type of cancer occurs in 0.5%. One day your doctor tells you that you have tested positive. What is the chance that you are actually sick? Surprisingly, it is only about 32 percent!

The Symmetries of Things

This beautiful book could certainly enhance your coffee table, but don't buy it just for its looks. Be prepared to spend some time with it, and join the wonder that mathematicians are expressing at the brilliance of this new way of describing and inventing symmetries.

Group Theory in the Bedroom, and Other Mathematical Diversions

I am an enthusiastic fan of Brian Hayes' "Computing Science" column in the Sigma Xi publication, American Scientist, which is the source of most of the essays in this book. Before that, I read his articles in The Sciences, a now-defunct but beautiful little magazine once published by the New York Academy of Sciences.

The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives

George Gamow introduced me to Monte Carlo methods in a chapter of "One Two Three Infinity" (Hal's Pick of April, 2001) that I first read when I was about twelve. His vivid description and witty illustration of the path of a staggering drunk comes clearly to mind even these many decades later, and it surely inspired my research on a number of projects.