The original title for this work was “Mathematical Literacy, What Is It and Why You Need it”. The current title reflects that there can be no real learning in any subject, unless questions of who, what, when, where, why and how are raised in the minds of the learners. The book is not a mathematical text, and there are no assigned exercises or exams. It is written for reasonably intelligent and curious individuals, both those who value mathematics, aware of its many important applications and others who have been inappropriately exposed to mathematics, leading to indifference to the subject, fear and even loathing. These feelings are all consequences of meaningless presentations, drill, rote learning and being lost as the purpose of what is being studied.
Mathematics education needs a radical reform. There is more than one way to accomplish this. Here the author presents his approach of wrapping mathematical ideas in a story. To learn one first must develop an interest in a problem and the curiosity to find how masters of mathematics have solved them. What is necessary to be mathematically literate? It’s not about solving algebraic equations or even making a geometric proof. These are valuable skills but not evidence of literacy. We often seek answers but learning to ask pertinent questions is the road to mathematical literacy. Here is the good news: new mathematical ideas have a way of finding applications. This is known as “the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics.”