Philip Ording

Using 99 alternative proofs of the same theorem, “99 Variations on a Proof” presents a broad view of mathematics. In a variety of historical, formal, and creative styles—from Medieval, Topological, and Doggerel to Chromatic, Electrostatic, and Psychedelic—each chapter resolves an otherwise unremarkable equation. Philip Ording combines these variations into an approachable and comprehensive narrative on the nature and practice of mathematics with a unique fusion of comedy and academic elegance.

Italo Calvino, Marcel Duchamp, and Raymond Queneau were among the writers that made up the Paris-based Oulipo. Ordering finds fresh angles to look at the artistic potential of mathematical activity. In Queneau’s Exercises in Style, a compilation of 99 different versions of the same story, 99 Variations on a Proof is a mathematical interpretation. It makes surprising connections to everything from mysticism and technology to architecture and sign language. Ording highlights mathematics’s adaptability and creative potential despite its reputation for precision and rigor through diagrams, found objects, and other visuals.

The book’s readers will get not only a bird’s-eye view of the field and its main branches but also fresh perspectives on its intricacies in history, philosophy, and culture. No matter their degree of skill, readers will learn astonishing new features of the mathematical world from these proofs and the commentary that goes along with them.”