Mathematics for the Liberal Arts (Pack - Book and Ebook) book cover

Mathematics for the Liberal Arts

By Jason I. Brown

© 2014 – Chapman and Hall/CRC

440 pages | 143 Color Illus.

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pub: 2014-12-04
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Students See How Far a Little Math Can Take Them in Their Daily Lives

Mathematics for the Liberal Arts teaches everyday mathematics topics to non-math majors at the undergraduate level. Through numerous examples and more than 600 exercises, students learn how to use math seamlessly in a variety of practical areas, from conversion factors, statistics, visualization, money, and risk to games, art, music, and humor.

The text develops a logical, real-world approach to data and reasoning, showing students how to:

  • Think both analytically and visually about data
  • Use graphics to make a point
  • Make sound monetary and nonmonetary decisions
  • Evaluate risk taking
  • Strategize to win at games
  • Appreciate more fully art, music, and humor

Going beyond mere numerics and calculations, this textbook helps students become life-long learners exceeding the confines of a course. They will find that with a little more math, their daily lives will be more productive, understandable, and creative.

Web Resource

The author’s website provides a number of additional examples, including musical ones. It also offers one-of-a-kind software programs for the art and music material in the book.


"… a first-rate text. It invites students into the world of mathematics with well-chosen (and well-told) vignettes, which appear at the start of each chapter. The topics are well chosen as well. They include some of the old standards for these courses as well as several new topics. … Mathematics for the Liberal Arts strikes a nice balance … offering several chapters of quite practical mathematics followed by an interesting sampling of less applied topics … a very fine liberal arts mathematics text. It is well worth your consideration."

MAA Reviews, February 2015

"Enhanced with figures, tables, a two-page bibliography, a comprehensive index, and featuring author Jason I. Brown’s website, which provides a number of additional examples, including musical ones, Mathematics for the Liberal Arts also offers one-of-a-kind software programs for the art and music material in the book, making it ideal as a classroom textbook and the foundation for any liberal arts college library’s mathematics reference collection."

—Michael J. Carson, Midwest Book Review, January 2015

"This is a charming book that covers a unique set of topics. The tone is refreshing and should be inviting for readers of all levels. The beginning reads like a novel, and the stories the author relates that illustrate various uses and misuses of mathematics in the real world are fascinating.

What really sets this book apart from other books designed for liberal arts students is the deep and varied discussion of mathematics and music. This stems from the author's significant expertise in this area and his own experience as a guitarist. This material and the treatment of art, game theory, data analysis, and philosophy will make this a popular text."

—Gary Gordon, Lafayette University

"This book provides its readers with tools to understand and evaluate how mathematics intervenes in virtually every area of modern life. Modern vignettes motivate the exposition of the mathematics underlying such issues as ensuring safety, controlling risk, decision making, and recreations and appreciating art. Particularly notable are the sections on games and popular music that reflect the author’s own pleasure in the subject."

—Ed Barbeau, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics, University of Toronto

"Jason Brown has created a unique textbook aimed at providing students in non-quantitative majors with both an appreciation for the ubiquity of mathematics in their lives and some practical skills that can enhance those lives. Respecting the fact that many liberal arts students enjoy reading, Brown has constructed seven chapters, each of which stands alone as a mathematically themed story. To add some drama, any chapter opens with a description of some real-life situation designed to intrigue the reader and motivate development of some particular mathematical tools. The chapter ends with a conclusion to the initial real-life situation using the mathematics of the chapter.

This text will be best used by highly engaged instructors who can pick and choose chapters for their course selected to match the strengths and interests of their students as well as their own. Each chapter includes extensive exercise sets to help keep the students fully involved."

—Keith Taylor, Dalhousie University

"Jason Brown has managed to tie mathematics with everyday topics and ideas for the liberal arts major. This book has fun and understandable subjects with mathematics. The non-math major will enjoy subjects, such as traveling, music, politics, and a host of other interesting examples. Liberal arts majors will finally see how mathematics works in everyone’s day to day life."

—Jennifer Powers, Michigan State University

Table of Contents

The Math in Your Life

Health, Safety, and Mathematics

Found in Translation

The Essentials of Conversion

Making Sense of Your World with Statistics

Summarizing Data with a Few Good Numbers

Estimating Unknowns

Leading You Down the Garden Path with Statistics

Visualizing with Mathematics

Seeing Data

A Graph Is Worth a Thousand Words

Money and Risk

Money — Now or Later

Risk Taking and Probability

The Life in Your Math!

Deciding to Make the Best Decisions

Making the Right Choices for You

Game Theory — Coming Out on Top

Making Joint Decisions

Art Imitating Math

The Math that Makes the Art

Believing What You See (or Not)

The Mathematics of Sound (and the Sound of Mathematics)

The Mathematics of Listening

The Mathematics of Composing

Solving Musical Mysteries with MSI (Math Scene Investigations)

Late Night Mathematics — Humor and Philosophy

Laughing with Mathematics

The Limits of Mathematics



Review questions appear at the end of each chapter.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
MATHEMATICS / Recreations & Games