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The Man Who Counted

After reading the book The Man Who Counted by Malba Tahan, I learned a lot more about mathematics and how it can be viewed as an art form. The two main characters, Hanak Tade Maia, the man that became friends with the man who counted, and Beremiz Samir, the counting man, talk about their adventures and their jobs they both get with royalty. The book is basically filled with the stories and adventures of the Counting Man told by him and what Maia views.

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The book is told in sequential order starting from a memory of how Maia and Beremiz met, which was when Maia found him dressed in rags on the side of the road in the desert blurting out random seven digit numbers. This book was very well written and interesting enough to keep the reader’s attention throughout the whole story which is hard to do when a book is written about math. There were so many interesting stories within the book that kept my attention and kept me wanting to finish it.

Many stories had to do with people being amazed at the counting man because of his abilities to look at mass quantities of something and say the exact amount, and why. There was one story where there was a set of twins who were belly dancers in the royal court. The counting man was asked about whether or not he could tell them apart, and he answered he could because there were 3 more tassels on one of their costumes than the other 509 on one and 512 on the other.

Since I really enjoyed this novel, I would absolutely recommend it to other people to read. It is an easy read that is enjoyable from a high school age to any age above that. Although this book is written on an 8th grade reading level, it gets very confusing at some point so I wouldn’t recommend anyone younger than 9th grade to read it. There are pictures that start off every chapter but these pictures are used to depict what the man who counted is describing when he tells his stories.

Without these pictures to look at, sometimes I would be lost because he speaks of things that are foreign that I don’t actually understand all the time thus I look at the pictures in order to be able to comprehend things. I already have told a lot of my friends about this book because even though it’s a bit confusing, it’s also fascinating to think that someone like this young man (who is only 26 years old) can be so phenomenal when it comes it math. He really sparked and kept my interest, I think that I was most intrigued by the authors writing style.

This book made me see math more as a subject that one could actually look into more than just numbers, I can see the actual attractiveness to mathematics because of the stories that were told throughout this novel. When it comes to this book, I didn’t think I could learn much from a fictional novel. I did find out that even though this book was fictional, I learned a great deal. I learned to appreciate math as an art form, and how number correlations are so fascinating.

The counting man shows the reader what “perfect numbers” are, how to get the perfect correlation, and why he is so good at math. At one point, the counting man estimated the amount of birds in a giant bird cage, correctly to come out at some absurd number of 500 and something. After being told to tell his employer how many birds there were in the cage, which he did without any trouble at all, the counting man convinced his employer to set them free because than their numbers will soar.

He meant literally and figuratively, literally because the birds will soar, and figuratively because than they will be free to mate and have spawn so their actual numbers could soar. Someone with the ability to convince another person to just let these priceless birds go based on a number and calculation, is extremely good at what they do and people who can persuade others to do what they want even though they are of a lower power, make me want to learn more about them because that is what I strive to do.

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