If Barbie thinks math class is tough, what could she possibly think about math as a class of metaphorical thought? Cognitive scientists George Lakoff and Rafael Nuņez explore that theme in great depth in Where Mathematics Comes From: How the Embodied Mind Brings Mathematics into Being. This book is not for the faint of heart or those with an aversion to heavy abstraction--Lakoff and Nuņez pull no punches in their analysis of mathematical thinking. Their basic premise, that all of mathematics is derived from the metaphors we use to maneuver in the world around us, is easy enough to grasp, but following the reasoning requires a willingness to approach complex mathematical and linguistic concepts--a combination that is sure to alienate a fair number of readers.
Those willing to brave its rigors will find Where Mathematics Comes From rewarding and profoundly thought-provoking. The heart of the book wrestles with the important concept of infinity and tries to explain how our limited experience in a seemingly finite world can lead to such a crazy idea. The authors know their math and their cognitive theory. While those who want their abstractions to reflect the real world rather than merely the insides of their skulls will have trouble reading while rolling their eyes, most readers will take to the new conception of mathematical thinking as a satisfying, if challenging, solution. --Rob Lightner [via]