# Zetetic comments on The Best Textbooks on Every Subject - Less Wrong

167 16 January 2011 08:30AM

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Comment author: 15 May 2011 12:36:28AM 9 points [-]

Subject: Problem Solving

Reason: So, it has come to my attention that there is a freely available .pdf for the textbook for the MIT course Street Fighting Mathematics. It can be found here. I have only been reading it for a short while, but I would classify this text as something along the lines of 'x-rationality for mathematics'. Considerations such as minimizing the number of steps to solution minimizes the chance for error are taken into account, which makes it very awesome.

in any event, I feel that this should be added to the list, maybe under problem solving? I'm not totally clear about that, it seems to be in a class of its own.

Comment author: 17 May 2011 06:40:26PM 2 points [-]

If you come up with relevant comparison volumes, let me know!

Comment author: [deleted] 17 May 2011 07:04:31PM 5 points [-]

Seemingly relevant comparison volumes:

Numbers Rule Your World: The Hidden Influence of Probabilities and Statistics on Everything You Do

Back-of-the-Envelope Physics

How Many Licks? Or, How to Estimate Damn Near Anything

Guesstimation: Solving the World's Problems on the Back of a Cocktail Napkin

Also, the books below are listed as related resources in another class on approximation in science & engineering by the author of the Street-Fighting textbook on OCW, so they may be relevant for comparison, too, or at least interesting.

Engel, Arthur. Problem-solving Strategies. New York, NY: Springer, 1999. ISBN: 9780387982199.

Schmid-Nielsen, Knut. Scaling: Why is Animal Size So Important? New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1984. ISBN: 9780521319874.

Vogel, Steven. Life in Moving Fluids. 2nd rev. ed. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996. ISBN: 9780691026169.

Vogel, Steven. Comparative Biomechanics: Life's Physical World. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003. ISBN: 9780691112978.

PĆ³lya, George. Induction and Analogy in Mathematics. Vol. 1, Mathematics and Plausible Reasoning. 1954. Reprint, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990. ISBN: 9780691025094.

Comment author: 17 May 2011 08:40:34PM 0 points [-]

Great list, thanks!

Comment author: 17 May 2011 06:57:39PM *  1 point [-]

Well, they aren't necessarily comparison volumes, but the author suggested that the book should be used as a compliment to the following:

He implies that his book is more rough and ready for applications, but those books are more geared towards solving clearly stated problems in, say, a competition setting.

I would add Putnam and Beyond to the list, classifying it as advanced competition style problem solving (some of the stuff in that book is pretty tough).

Comment author: 17 May 2011 07:02:56PM 0 points [-]

Have you read any of those? If so, what did you think of them in comparison to 'Street-Fighting Mathematics'?

Comment author: 17 May 2011 07:37:46PM *  1 point [-]

I have only read/skimmed through/worked a few problems out of Putnam and Beyond. I can attest to its advanced level (compared to other problem solving books, I have looked at a few before and found that they were geared more towards high school level subject matter; you won't find any actually advanced [read; grad level] topics in it) and systematic presentation, but that is about it. Its problems are mainly chosen from actual math competitions, and it seems to present a useful bag of tricks via well thought out examples and explanations. I am currently working through it and have a ways to go.

I've heard How to Solve It mentioned a number of times, but I've never really looked into it. I can't really say anything about the other books beyond what the author said about them.