Playing with Infinity – the theoretical minimum in Mathematics

This tiny little book is a timeless introduction into the wonderful world of Mathematics which contains what constitutes the theoretical minimum. It treats its subject in an entertaining and intuitive way. It doesn’t bother its readers with proofs and technicalities, rather it shows the joyful nature of thinking about mathematical problems.

This book was written by Rózsa Péter during the darkest period of Hungary’s history, the Holocaust. Péter, as a person with Jewish ancestry, couldn’t continue her work as a math teacher. Her friends inspired her to write a math book for the layman. These friends were Hungarian writers and other artists, so Péter had to express herself as clearly as possible. Since she was an excellent teacher, she did a great job. Later, Péter became the first women who received a doctorate in mathematics in Hungary and she is the “founding mother” of recursion theory. Also, she was a great educator, and one of the most influential mathematicians in the post-ww2 era in Hungary. If you are suffering from math anxiety, this book will heal your soul! If you need a refresher on math, this is your book too.

The cover of the sixth Hungarian edition of the book from 1978

Playing with Infinity starts with elementary number theory and it gradually builds up your knowledge of combinatorics, vectors, group theory, set theory and logic. As its Hungarian subtitle says, it is mathematics for the outsiders. It does lack equations, theorems and their proofs, but it doesn’t lack rigor. If you go for the English translation of the book, I strongly recommend the Dover edition of it.

The header image was downloaded from the book page at Dover Publications.

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