From the preface:
This text is for a one or two semester terminal course in mathematics. Such a course allows for leisurely exploration in place of drill---it is a course in mathematics appreciation. For this audience one must constantly keep in mind the Hippocratic admonition, "First, do no harm." The authors believe that the spirit of mathematics can be communicated by means of simple ideas and problems without scaring or boring the students.
What are these ideas and problems? Counting patterns. Measuring likelihood. Interpreting polls. Interest payments. Population growth. Describing data. Different kinds of averages. Secret writing. Graphs (networks). Ruler and compass constructions. Incommensurable magnitudes. Playing with numbers. Logic puzzles. Infinity.
The history of the subject is integrated into the text. We maintain an historical consciousness throughout, but no attempt is made to offer a comprehensive history of mathematics, nor to include complete biographies of mathematicians. We introduce major mathematicians when their stories relate to the material at hand. Notes at the end of each chapter provide another opportunity to put a human face on mathematics.
Also included are short encounters, one page treatments of various topics. Conversion between Celsius and Fahrenheit. Ladders for approximating the square roots of 2 and 3, etc. Collapsing compasses. The four color problem.
We try to make the chapters as independent as possible, so that instructors can choose whatever pleases them. If the teacher doesn't like the material, the students certainly will not. We also strive to avoid superfluous generality, preferring illustrations to formulas. It is sometimes difficult for a mathematician to realize that an idea, depending on a parameter, may be understood in general by examining it for 5, yet be totally opaque when stated in terms of n. As John Stuart Mill said, "Not only may we reason from particulars to particulars without passing through generals, but we perpetually do so reason."
The typical college freshman will have all the prerequisites for the book. Nevertheless, an appendix is included for review of basic arithmetic concepts and notations for those students who are a bit rusty on these points.
The text meets the guidelines for two semesters of liberal arts mathematics established for the State of Florida's universities and community colleges. It has been used for both semesters at Florida Atlantic University for the past two years, and at New Mexico State University for the first semester for the past year.