“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela.
Perhaps you’re wondering why anyone would want to write a novel filled with math? Well, my motivation was very simple. I wanted to find an exciting way for people to be exposed to math. Most teachers attempt to make math more interesting by making it relevant to real life, or by having fun examples. For example, they might try and learn about finance and probability by analysing your mobile phone bill, or guessing the outcome of a coin flip.
I decided to try a different approach. I structured an entire story around dozens of key mathematical concepts that I (and many others) believe any mathematically literate member of society should understand. The concepts that help you avoid getting conned by dodgy politicians spouting dodgy statistics, that help you understand what risks you’re facing when you walk into a casino, and that temper your anger when you get a speeding ticket going down a hill.
Instead of illustrating these concepts in “realistic” situations, I deliberately chose the most outrageous stunts, chases and fights you can imagine. Situations you’ll never, ever (at least I hope) find yourself in during your lifetime. Hopefully, if you’ve made it this far, this idea has worked. Because it’s hard not to absorb a little bit of math if it means the difference between going splat on the pavement 20 stories below, or successfully defusing a 100 tonne bomb.
Mathematical literacy is critically important in the 21st century, more so now than at any other time. Society is going to have to decide how to deal with fundamental challenges to humanity, including climate change, overcrowding, and the ever present threat of biological and nuclear terrorism and war. The worst, worst thing that can happen is to have poorly educated or even deliberately ignorant loud voices confuse us by exploiting gaps in our understanding of basic mathematical principles and reasoning.
A universally informed, critically thinking population is a wonderful thing. I hope I can help get us a little bit closer to it being a reality.