Devi, Shakuntala. Figuring: The Joy of Numbers

Figuring: The Joy of Numbers - Front Cover

Figuring: The Joy of Numbers is a book written by Shakuntala Devi and printed in 1977 by Ebenezer Bayliss & Son Limited. This book shows the reader how to perform mathematical operations in a more efficient and faster way without the aid of a calculator.

This is the only one book I have read about this remarkable prodigy, and thought it was worth writing about.

Shakuntala Devi

Shakuntala Devi

Shakuntala Devi was a prodigy who frequently demonstrated on television and lecture halls all over the world that she could perform numerical arithmetic in her head. If you wanted to know the cube root of 7761085790, or the day of the week on 8th December 1966, or the eleventh power of your telephone number, she could give the answers within seconds.

This ability won her a place in the Guinness Book of Records where she calculated the twenty-third root of a 201-digit number. Unfortunately, she cannot teach us all how to perform such feats, but she shows some of the methods she used through this book.

Anyone who studies this book will find that with a little practice, and the occasional use of pencil and paper, they will be able to tackle mathematical problems they would have previously thought impossible.

However, even more importantly, they will have come to share her pleasure in numbers and to understand that mathematics can and should be fun. Even those multiplication tables that were the bane of the school day conceal a pattern and elegance, which the most mathematically illiterate can enjoy with her help.

The purpose of this book is to help you lose fear of numbers and you will discover that they have character, quirks, and peculiarities. When manipulated in patterns they give enjoyment and satisfaction. With the help of a light-hearted approach, and a series of ingenious tricks, puzzles, and riddles, she shows that we can be at ease in the world of numbers as we are in the world of letters.

The photograph shows her working out the twenty-third root of the number on the blackboard. It contains 201 digits, which took 50 seconds to solve.

Students at the Southern Methodist University in Dallas set the problem. In order to check her answer they had to consult a UNIVAC 1108 at the National Bureau of Standards in Washington DC. It took the computer a full minute to confirm that her answer was correct. However, the computer needed 13000 instructions before it started on the problem.


TitleFiguring: The Joy of Numbers
AuthorShakuntala Devi
PublisherEbenezer Bayliss & Son Limited
ISBN Number0 233 96591 2
Date first Published1977
CopyrightShakuntala Devi, 1977
AvailabilityAmazon and all good online bookstores