Odd Words, Even Numbers

Ian Paterson


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Edition 1, Paperback , 260 pages
ISBN (10): 1854188879; (13): 9781854188878
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Odd Words, Even Numbers refers to the fact that standards of numeracy at all levels appear to be in decline. It proposes that by treating numeracy as a vital aspect of literacy we might be able to arrest this fall in standards. The main purpose is to stimulate and entertain readers of all ages which the author attempts to achieve by showing how we use the English language to describe a selection of mathematical concepts; by explaining many mathematical games and diversions; and by including a large number of word puzzles and mathematical puzzles each of which demonstrates the close interrelationship between words and numbers.

This book is also designed to appeal to those who might deny having any interest or expertise in handling or playing with numbers. Indeed, the book requires little mathematical ability of its readers to enable them to derive fun and enjoyment from its pages particularly if their interest is more inclined towards words and language.

A consistent theme of the book is that in order to be able to communicate effectively – whether in words or numbers – we must learn to communicate clearly and without ambiguity.




1 That’s Odd! 
2 Numbers, Numerals, Integers, Digits, Figures, Units and And 
3 Series and Sequences 
4 Spelling Numbers 
5 Silent Letters, Silent Numbers 
6 Number Into Word and Word Into Number 
7 Indivisibility and Divisibility 
8 Matrices 
9 Time and Number Nine 
10 Number Confusion and Large Numbers 
10½ Some More Prefixes 
11 Multiplication and Number Eleven 
12 Dozen 
13 Number Thirteen 
14 Some Diversions Involving Words and Numbers 
15 Non-Specific Numbers 
16 Numbers and Words In Disguise 
17 Origins and Categories Of Number Words 
18 Number and Its B 
19 Number Or Word?
20 Pyramid Puzzles 
21 Magic Squares 
22 Some Trivial Connections 
23 Numbers Within Numbers, Words Within Words 
24 Reversals and Palindromes 
25 All The Letters and All The Numbers 
26 Fibonacci Sequence

Answers: A to Z

Proofs and Explanations




Notes and Workings


Ian Paterson has written a book which is a thoroughly absorbing study of the
connections between words and numbers. Ian is passionate about the need for students to communicate by understanding the connection between literacy and numeracy, words and numbers, in order to prepare them for their working lives. Enabling students to have the tools to do so is at the heart of all teaching. There is a need for all of us at whatever age to share ideas, discuss, inform, explain, agree and disagree. We see how difficult life becomes when this ability is removed from us through illness or accident.

Ian shows us how words we use every day are ‘number words.’ Among examples given are soloist, serial, digit. The months September to December come from the numbers seven to ten, a confusing throwback to changes in our calendar. The work on codes and ciphers emphasises connections between words and numbers. We are all familiar with code breaking in wartime but children throughout the ages have made up their own codes showing an early understanding of the literacy and numeracy connections. My favourite chapter is on the Fibonacci Sequence, created by Leonardo of Pisa in the thirteenth century and worked on in the 1940s by my hero, Alan Turing, in Bletchley Park. Ian shows how the sequence of numbers occurs in plant life. The number of petals in a sunflower, for example, are in the sequence, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55 and this occurs in many examples in plant life. This is as wonderful and magical today as the day it was first shown to me and also to generations of students who have shared my wonderment. I encourage you to try some of the puzzles and amaze your friends. In this way, you too will be communicating in words and numbers. This is a book to dip into and to be fascinated and surprised at the wide range of mathematical influences on our language.

Reviewed by Lynda Landsman

The author

Ian Paterson has spent over five-sixths of his life collecting and studying books on recreational maths; mathematical puzzles, games and diversions and the English language. He is the author of best selling book ‘A Dictionary of Colour’ also published by Thorogood.