What I’m Reading: Fermat’s Enigma

Homeschooling is much more than just doing school at home — it’s a lifelong lifestyle of learning. And thanks to the modern miracle of inter-library loan, even those of us who live in the middle of nowhere can get just about any book sent directly to our tiny home-town libraries.

As I mentioned in Math Teachers at Play 46, I’m trying to add more living books about math to our homeschool schedule, including my own self-education reading. So, a copy of Fermat’s Enigma: The Epic Quest to Solve the World’s Greatest Mathematical Problem finally showed up at my library, and I am thoroughly enjoying it.

I like the way the author weaves so many threads from math history into the book, and how even when the math goes way past anything I’ll ever understand, he throws in enough metaphors and word images to make me feel like I’m following along. The story begins long ago, in the hazy days of Pythagoras and his famous theorem, and proceeds through a series of twists and sidetracks (including the mention of Sam Loyd’s 14-15 puzzle) to the intensely dramatic conclusion of Andrew Wiles‘s amazing proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem.

The story of Fermat’s Last Theorem in inextricably linked with the history of mathematics, touching on all the major themes of number theory. It provides a unique insight into what drives mathematics and, perhaps more important, what inspires mathematicians. The Last Theorem is at the heart of an intriguing saga of courage, skulduggery, cunning, and tragedy, involving all the greatest heroes of mathematics.

Simon Singh
Fermat’s Enigma: The Epic Quest to Solve the World’s Greatest Mathematical Problem

Excerpts from the video: Andrew Wiles on Solving Fermat.


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