© 2010

Figuring It Out

Entertaining Encounters with Everyday Math

  • Addresses topics of major public interest

  • Easy to read and informative

  • Entertaining but scientifically sound

  • Reveals the mathematics behind everyday things

  • Written by an eminent mathematician and award-winning communicator

  • Told in a way that will inspire young and old alike

  • Makes the beauty and power of mathematics plain for all to see

  • Excellent source of novel teaching material


Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-ix
  2. Everyday Matters

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 1-1
    2. Nuno Crato
      Pages 3-6
    3. Nuno Crato
      Pages 7-10
    4. Nuno Crato
      Pages 11-13
    5. Nuno Crato
      Pages 15-18
    6. Nuno Crato
      Pages 19-22
    7. Nuno Crato
      Pages 23-26
    8. Nuno Crato
      Pages 27-30
    9. Nuno Crato
      Pages 31-34
    10. Nuno Crato
      Pages 35-37
    11. Nuno Crato
      Pages 39-41
    12. Nuno Crato
      Pages 43-45
  3. The Earth is Round

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 47-47
    2. Nuno Crato
      Pages 49-52
    3. Nuno Crato
      Pages 53-56
    4. Nuno Crato
      Pages 57-60
    5. Nuno Crato
      Pages 61-64
    6. Nuno Crato
      Pages 65-69
    7. Nuno Crato
      Pages 71-73

About this book


This is a book of mathematical stories — funny and puzzling mathematical stories. They tell of villains who try to steal secrets, heroes who encode their messages, and mathematicians who spend years on end searching for the best way to pile oranges.

There are also stories about highway confusions occurring when the rules of Cartesian geometry are ignored, small-change errors due to ignorance of ancient paradoxes, and mistakes in calendars arising from poor numerical approximations.

This book is about the power and beauty of mathematics. It shows mathematics in action, explained in a way that everybody can understand. It is a book for enticing youngsters and inspiring teachers.

Nuno Crato is a leading science writer and mathematician, whose entertaining essays have won a number of international awards.


Everyday logistics Games of logic and chance Mathematical Everyday Life Applications Mathematical Paradoxes Mathematical Puzzles Mathematical Recreations Mathematics - Popular Works Numbers in daily life Simple math p geometry mathematics proof

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Inst. Superior de Economia e Gestão, Depto. MatemáticaUniversidade Técnica de LisboaLisboaPortugal

About the authors

Nuno Crato is one of the leading science writers in Portugal. He is a professor of Mathematics at the Technca1 University of Lisbon, current president of the Portuguese Mathematical Society, a researcher in stochastic processes, and a well-known science popularizer.

Nuno Crato is the author of several best-selling popular science books and takes a leading role in bringing mathemalics to a wider audience. He is a regular contributor to newspapers and magazines and author of radio and TV programmes. Through these channels he brings regularly and to a vast audience a scientific perspective on a wide variety of current news and events.

In 2003 he was awarded the First Prize on the «Raising Public Awareness on Mathematics» competition organized by the European Mathematics Society.

In 2008 the European Union awarded him a European Science Award (ex-Descartes prize). He won the second place as «Science Communicator of the Year».. Previous winners of this prize include Sir David Attenborough and Bill Bryson. The prize statement coined the phrase «Cratos approach» for his science popularizing style. The jury characterized his writings as «easy to read. but also informative and scientifically sound», stressing that they address topics of «major public interest [...] dealt with humour, intelligence and a distinct journalistic style».

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title Figuring It Out
  • Book Subtitle Entertaining Encounters with Everyday Math
  • Authors Nuno Crato
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2010
  • Publisher Name Copernicus, Berlin, Heidelberg
  • eBook Packages Mathematics and Statistics Mathematics and Statistics (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-3-642-04832-6
  • Softcover ISBN 978-3-662-50552-6
  • eBook ISBN 978-3-642-04833-3
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages IX, 227
  • Number of Illustrations 0 b/w illustrations, 0 illustrations in colour
  • Additional Information Original Portuguese edition published by gravida publicaçãos lda., Lisboa, Portugal, 2008.
  • Topics Mathematics, general
    Popular Science, general
  • Buy this book on publisher's site


From the reviews:

“All people, including professional mathematicians, should read some of the popular works of mathematics. Taking that as a given, this book should be a bestseller within mathematical circles. It contains a set of short essays about mathematics as it is used in the lives of all people. Generally 3–4 pages in length, the essays are easily understood and will either initiate the lay reader into some of the valuable ways mathematics is used or remind professionals just how valuable their field is to society.” (Charles Ashbacher, MAA Reviews, November, 2010)

“Crato’s presentation is to examine how problems, some challenging and of great importance and some of minor consequence yet thought provoking, have been resolved over the centuries. … Impressively, the essays never get bogged down with complicated mathematical formulae, yet they still provide sufficient detail of the human endeavor and mathematical underpinnings involved, allowing the book to be of interest to both the layperson and the advanced expert. Overall, the stories are amusing, intriguing, insightful, entertaining, and thoroughly enjoyable. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries.” (N. W. Schillow, Choice, Vol. 48 (9), May, 2011)

“The present book is about the power and beauty of mathematics. … Nuno Crato … explains things in a way that everybody can follow. Therefore, the book is also directed at school pupils and can inspire teachers. … You can learn interesting details about the life and the research of famous astronomers, mathematicians, engineers and computer scientists … . It is a wonderful book that can help to popularize mathematics and can demonstrate the importance of mathematics in our everyday life.” (Werner H. Schmidt, Zentralblatt MATH, Vol. 1219, 2011)