Just a few days after getting this request for introductions to mathematics for someone with an advanced degree in a humanities field, I received another email with a similar request. I’ll just quote from it:

Do you think you might be able to suggest some books or websites, for someone who had no math aptitude, to learn math? It is a great personal sadness to me that I was never able to master the subject. The older I become the more I wish I could understand it!

I was able to do basic arithmetic as a child but became lost beginning with algebra. If there was one thing that stands out in my memory it was staring at a word problem mystified as how to solve it, or staring at an algebra problem not knowing what sort of formula one should apply to solve it. In short, I suppose my greatest liability was the inability to see patterns. I still believe that math could have been fun and challenging with the right teacher rather than overwhelming. Any suggestions on your part would be greatly appreciated!

This person has just finished graduate school in the arts, and the person’s last contact with math was “a sad dalliance” with a statistics course, which the person failed twice.

I get the sense from this email and the other one that there are actually a lot of people out there who are closet math lovers, or math-curious at least, who would like the chance to become literate in mathematics now that they’ve made it through school. That’s a far cry from the usual anti-math sentiment we math people get all the time from most people we meet.

The comments on the other post were so good, it makes sense to open the comments here for suggestions as well. Fire when ready!