Why do some people consider a math test an overwhelming obstacle, whereas for others it's no different from any other exam? Why does mathematics trouble some people so much that they experience anxiety and develop veritable phobias? The author introduces the reader to the world of numbers and answers these and other questions concerning people's numeracy skills. Outlining the long evolution of numbers, she explains how humans have a natural aptitude for assessing "quantities", which even some animals possess at a perceptive level, and describes the fascinating history of great mathematicians and gifted calculators. The author also addresses problems relating to math learning and argues that fear and hatred of math often stem from bad teaching strategies.
Luisa Girelli is a researcher in Psychobiology and Physiological Psychology at the University of Milan-Bicocca.