7 Great Books About Math

Ryan vs. Math: To all the parents – buy these books for your teens.

ryan ofman mathematics

I’m sure many parents spend hours worrying about the SAT on behalf of their children. One of my teachers once told us the most common question asked at teacher-parent meetings is, “How can I help them prepare for the SAT?” It’s something our parents stress about for years, perhaps because it is seen as a hurdle to college. One problem is that parents (and their kids) spend too much time focusing on the test itself rather than looking at what it’s trying to test.

The SAT math section is looking to prove that  “students have fluency with, understanding of, and the ability to apply the mathematical concepts, skills, and practices.” That’s it! It sounds quite simple, so why do people spend hours, weeks, or months of their lives studying and rote learning how to answer the questions? Surely it’s better to focus on the fluency, understanding and application, rather than answering test questions?

So for the parents who ask “How can I help my children?”, challenge them to prove the formulas they are memorizing for themselves, ask them to come up with a new way of distributing federal taxes, send them to Code by Math (and let them pick up a new skill while ‘studying’), or try to solve only the most difficult SAT problems without a time limit. There are countless ways to improve at math, but endless practice practice tests and SAT prep classes aren’t the way.

Prep classes and practice tests will help you improve your SAT score, to an extent. But if you stall in your improvement (for most of us, it’s when rather than if), you’ll need to dig a little deeper and look at where your understanding is going off the rails or losing speed. This is why I suggest supplementary drills and problems, like the ones found in my workbook.

But for improving your facility with math overall, I suggest you spend your time wisely and read or practice around the subject – this will deepen and strengthen your knowledge which can then be applied not only to the SAT but to life!

The following is my essential math reading list. I haven’t read them all (yet), but the books I have read so far have offered me new ideas and ways of approaching mathematics that I could never have got from a prep center. So do your SAT prep, but don’t forget there’s a lot more to math than the SAT.

The Man Who Loved Only Numbers: The Story of Paul Erdos and the Search for Mathematical Truth

A great book by Paul Hoffman, published back in 1999 (before I was born), this book walks readers through Hungarian Erdos’s life and love of mathematics. He published around 1500 papers and theories on math before his death in 1996, and it’s thought that he’s solved more math problems than anyone else in history.


The Music of the Primes: Searching to Solve the Greatest Mystery in Mathematics

A true story of Bernhard Reimann and his ongoing quest to find the formula to predict prime numbers.

A Beautiful Mind

The book behind the famous movie, Sylvia Nasar depicts John Nash and his battle with schizophrenia, from the start to the Nobel prize.


The Math Book: From Pythagoras to the 57th Dimension, 250 Milestones in the History of Mathematics

I haven’t read this yet, but it is on my list. Understanding how mathematics has evolved through the centuries is probably incredibly important to understanding math.


The Art of Strategy: A Game Theorist’s Guide to Success in Business and Life

A book that I think will be really important in my future career. Strategy is mathematics in practice.

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

Another ‘non-math’ book that will add benefit to any students life. Starting with the question why is sometimes the most important thing in any subject. Start with Why has been #1 in entrepreneurship on amazon for many months.

SAT Math Workbook: 2,500 fast practice problems designed to ensure you understand the SAT inside out

Finally a plug for my SAT Math Workbook. I believe that strong fundamentals in mathematics will make every student’s life easier. Don’t waste your time doing practice papers until you are sure that you are strong in the basics. The SAT Math Workbook will ensure that you won’t stumble or lose marks on simple mistakes, but rather spend your time tackling the important questions.


Do you have any books to recommend? Post in the comments below, it would be great to hear from you!

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