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Book Review: Hacking Math Class with Python

Hacking Math Class with Python (by Peter Farrell) is a great introduction to Python for beginners, and explains some advanced mathematical concepts in a programmer-friendly terms. Starting off with simple “turtle” module for graphics, it goes to more advanced topics such as complex numbers and plotting fractals and 3d spheres.

What you’ll learn:

  • Basic ifs/loops, how to make a guessing game
  • Basic Mandelbrot (and other plots) with some explanation of complex numbers
  • Modeling algebra/calculus problems with simple programs
  • and much more

With books like this, and Raspberry Pi and similar devices that are quite cheap, books like this one would be a good replacement for the TI-84 programming lessons that high school math teachers use… using a more general-purpose programming language than any calculator-programming language.

While this book is great for beginning mathematicians or programmers, there are a few minor problems:

  • Not a reference book for Numpy or other libraries – though it has some good examples.
  • Sometimes it uses “from somemodule import *” – importing everything in a module may be handy but not best practice, in fact they have a module made specifically for removing it.
  • No discussion of the “why” meaning of some of the more advanced topics like Runge Kutta.
  • I would prefer examples with the widely used Matplotlib or Python-GTK rather than Tk.

In summary, I would recommend this book if you are interested in automating some mathematical calculations – like on a HP or TI calculator, but much faster, or if you know a bit of Python and want to review some interesting high school/college math topics. Also check out the author’s blog for similar material – it discusses some neat mathematical topics.

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