MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Topic=Algebra/Arithmetic/Number Theory

179 matches found out of 1158 entries

(Note: This page not the entire list of works of Mathematical Fiction. To see the whole list, click here.)

2+2=5 (2006)
Rudy Rucker / Terry Bisson
A retired insurance adjuster and a math professor who was fired for telling his students that there are "holes" in the number line pass the time by trying to break a world record for counting. To achieve... (more)
36 Arguments for the Existence of God (2010)
Rebecca Goldstein
This new novel by Rebecca Goldstein, whose Strange Attractors is one of my favorite works of mathematical fiction, features as two main characters a woman known as "the goddess of game theory" and a Hasidic... (more)
The Adventures of Topology Man (2005)
Highly Rated!
Alex Kasman
Parody is easy....topology is hard! In this short story, I made use of (and made fun of) the classic superhero comic book genre to illustrate some ideas from topology. So, we end up seeing a battle... (more)
Against the Day (2006)
Highly Rated!
Thomas Pynchon
This novel, set in the time frame 1890s to 1920s interleaves several plots and styles, from boys' adventures to peacetime spies to gunslingers' revenges. The forces of progress stomp over all the... (more)
Against the Odds (2001)
Martin Gardner
Luther Washington, a young, African-American boy in Butterfield, KS must overcome several kinds of prejudice to become a mathematician. First, he must face the prejudices of his father that his interest... (more)
The Algebraist (2005)
Iain M. Banks
Fassin Taak is a human in the year 4034 who has the job of communicating with the alien species known as "the dwellers". Since the dweller culture is billions of years old, they have accumulated tremendous... (more)
Alphabet (2002)
Chelsea Spear
A silent, short film which shows intertwined clips of a young girl playing the french horn and answering a question at the board in her algebra class. Reviews of the film that I've read suggest that she... (more)
Another New Math (2005)
Alex Kasman
A mathematician and his young daughter try to convince a school board to consider teaching advanced mathematics to elementary school children in this short story that appeared in the collection Reality... (more)
The Arnold Proof (2002)
Jessica Francis Kane
This short story begins with a quote from Philip E.B. Jourdain's essay "The Nature of Mathematics". In the quote, he explains how in the process of carrying out a complicated computation, one may want... (more)
A Beautiful Mind (2001)
Sylvia Nasar / Akiva Goldsman
Although the book A Beautiful Mind: A Biography of John Forbes Nash, Jr. is not fictional, Ron Howard's film (released December 2001) most certainly is. (I say this not as a complaint, but just to justify... (more)
The Bed and the Bachelor (2011)
Tracy Anne Warren
Although it involves cryptography and the Napoleonic wars, this novel is really more of a romance than it is historical fiction or espionage. Sebastianne Dumont is the daughter of a French mathematician... (more)
The Bees of Knowledge (1975)
Barrington J. Bayley
It's a story about a traveller marooned on a planet, part of which is populated by giant bees which collect the "nectar of knowledge" and make "honey of experience" out of that nectar. The story has a... (more)
Belonging to Karovsky (2002)
Kathryn Schwille
This short story, published in the literary magazine Crazyhorse concerns the boring and lonely Mr. Digby who was the downstairs neighbor of Karovsky, the brilliant (but of course, seriously insane) mathematician... (more)
Blue Tigers (1977)
Jorge Luis Borges
The protagonist, a Scotsman, chases down reports of a blue species of tigers sighted in village in Punjab, Pakistan. He never finds a blue tiger but ends up obtaining some magical stones on a hillside... (more)
The Book of Irrational Numbers (1999)
Michael Marshall Smith
The protagonist of this short story views everything through the filter of numerology. His journal entries detail his considerations of digital roots, perfect numbers, irrational numbers, and even Wilson’s... (more)
Book of Knut: a novel by Knut Knudson (2012)
Halvor Aakhus
Halvor Aakhus, who has an undergraduate degree in math and an MFA in writing, wrote this unusual work of fiction that takes the form of a novel by an apparently dead author named Knut Knudson which has... (more)
Border Guards (1999)
Greg Egan
In a virtual universe shaped like a 3-torus, free from disease and death, Jamil is easily depressed but enjoys playing a game of quantum soccer with his old friends, and one new friend. The new friend... (more)
Borzag and the Numerical Apocalypse (2006)
Jason Earls
I must warn you that I am a trained mathematician, but NOT a trained expert on literature. Among other consequences, this means that I sometimes have trouble telling the difference between brilliant,... (more)
Cardano and the Case of the Cubic (2005)
Jeff Adams
This parody of early 20th century "Hard Boiled Private Detective" novels is instead a short story about 16th century mathematician Gerolamo Cardano. Its opening paragraphs clearly set the tone: It... (more)
Case of Lies (2005)
Perri O'Shaughnessy
An old, unsolved casino murder becomes mathematical when three of the witnesses turn out to have been math students using their skills to win at gambling. Quite a bit of detailed discussion of number... (more)
The Cat in Numberland (2006)
Ivar Ekeland (author) / John O'Brien (illustrator)
This picture book uses the idea of a hotel with infintely many rooms for introducing some advanced concepts about numbers and infinity to children. The hotel, run in the book by "Mr. and Mrs. Hilbert",... (more)
The Center of the Universe (2005)
Alex Kasman
This short story was intended to serve two different purposes. On the one hand it is a glimpse into the lives and interactions of mathematics graduate students. And, on the other, it addresses the philosophical... (more)
Child's Play (1986)
Isaac Asimov
Young Griswold uses something he just learned in elementary school math class to solve a minor stumper. (Be warned: the problem has a minor bug. Change "mix" to "nix".) Published in the... (more)
Coconuts (1926)
Ben Ames Williams
The story is a very nicely written tale of one man, Wadlin, whose only passion in life is mathematics - numbers, puzzles, Diophantine equations ("indeterminates"), statistics. As the author describes... (more)
Cocoon of Terror (2008)
Jason Earls
The protagonist in the latest novel by Jason Earls spends his time hunting down the evil and semi-mystical artist Zelian, and much of his spare time finding integers with interesting aesthetic and number... (more)
Code to Zero (2000)
Ken Follett
This thriller is set in 1958, with backdrop the first successful launching of a US satellite. Several of the characters are mathematicians turned rocket scientists. They frequently muse rather explicitly... (more)
Confusions of Young Torless (1906)
Robert Musil
A semi-autobiographical novel set in a military academy in a desolate corner of the Austro-Hungarian empire, is the story of the intellectual awakening of an intelligent adolescent, and contains several... (more)
Contact (1985)
Highly Rated!
Carl Sagan
This is a fantastic novel; don't skip it just because you saw the movie. Mathematics plays an important role in the book, much more so than in the film. In both, Ellie Arroway detects a message from... (more)
Continuums (2008)
Highly Rated!
Robert Carr
The decisions we make and the difficulty in accepting the consequences is the main focus of this book about a Romanian mathematician who leaves her country and her daughter to be in a place that she could... (more)
Coyote Moon (2003)
John A. Miller
Well, this book is hard to describe! It's certainly different and not easily categorizable. It is a novel that addresses the question "What if a young, nerdy, MIT mathematics professor died of cancer... (more)
Cryptonomicon (1998)
Highly Rated!
Neal Stephenson
This "cult" novel of mathematics, computer science, espionage and warfare follows a mathematician through World War II and his grandson through the creation of a (less than ordinary) silicon valley start-up company.... (more)
Cube (1997)
Vincenzo Natali (Director)
This [film] concerns the attempt of six individuals to escape from a vast network of interlocking cubes, each room, and each wall, floor and ceiling identical. The rooms vary in colour. Some are harmless;... (more)
The Cube Root of Conquest (1948)
Rog Phillips
An evil dictator's plan to destroy and conquer the world is based on the work of one of his scientists, which allows travel into complex components of time. In order to do this, one is required to solve... (more)
Dark as Day (2002)
Charles Sheffield
Alex Ligon, though unbelievably rich, chooses to work voluntarily at a government agency where his predictive models for the future of the human race (based, he claims, on the principles of statistical... (more)
The Devil a Mathematician Would Be (1962)
A.J. Lohwater
This clever short story that captures the feeling of a math problem that "gets under your skin" was printed in The Mathematical Magpie and was said to have been "collected" by A.J. Lohwater. Well, I... (more)
The Devil and Simon Flagg (1954)
Highly Rated!
Arthur Porges
Mathematicians know the feeling of trying to prove something you really believe to be true, but has never been proven. There is pleasure in doing this, like solving a puzzle, but also frustration and... (more)
Diamond Dogs (2001)
Alistair Reynolds
This novella by a trained astrophysicist who has worked for the European Space Agency features an alien designed "death trap" that challenges people with difficult mathematical puzzles. In an interview,... (more)
Diary of a Bad Year (2007)
John Maxwell Coetzee
J.M. Coetzee has a Nobel Prize in literature (2003) and an undergraduate degree in mathematics (University of Cape Town, 1961). It is therefore not too surprising to find him included in my list of mathematical... (more)
A Disappearing Number (2007)
Highly Rated!
Simon McBurney
Scenes of Srinivasa Ramanujan's collaboration with G.H. Hardy around the time of World War I are mixed in with modern storylines including an Indian physicist who has applied Ramanujan's work to String... (more)
Disciple of the Masses (2008)
Xujun Eberlein
A pathos-filled short story set in rural China toward the end of Mao’s Cultural Revolution. It captures beautifully the sense of loss inherent in a centrally-directed and enforced revolution, with... (more)
Division by Zero (1991)
Highly Rated!
Ted Chiang
Answers the question: what would happen if we found out that mathematics is inconsistent? This is a great piece of mathematical fiction. (Thanks to Frank Chess who pointed it out to me.) Renee... (more)
Doctor Who: The Algebra of Ice (2004)
Lloyd Rose (pseudonym of Sarah Tonyn)
Lloyd Rose (pen name for Sarah Tonyn) has a “Doctor Who” book called “The Algebra of Ice”. It describes the attempted invasion of our universe by mathematical beings from another dimension. These... (more)
Dragon's Egg (1980)
Robert L. Forward
[In this science fiction novel], the crew of the first spaceship to ever visit a neutron star discover that the star is inhabited by a race - the Cheela - whose metabolism is based on nuclear reactions... (more)
Empire of the Ants (1991)
Bernard Werber
This is a fascinating first novel. Published in France under the title "Les Fourmis" in 1991 and translated into English as "Empire of the Ants" (not to be confused with the H G Wells story or movie... (more)
Enigma (1995)
Robert Harris / Tom Stoppard
In this this espionage story set in England's Bletchley Park at the height of the Second World War, Tom Jericho is a clever mathematician at the famous code breaking facility who -- either despite or because... (more)
Evariste Galois (1965)
Alexadre Astruc (writer and director)
Short film about the romantic and tragic death of Galois, the young mathematician whose research laid the foundation for Group Theory. I haven't actually seen the film, but the following quote (stolen... (more)
The Exception (2005)
Alex Kasman
Written in the form of a dialogue between a man in a nursing home and his grandchild, this short story describes an undergraduate research project that produces a surprising answer to one of the most famous... (more)
The Expert (1999)
Lee Gruenfeld
A techno-legal thriller centered on a trial over cryptographic exportation. The chip in question uses properties of large Mersenne primes to provide an unbreakable code. This explanation seems to... (more)
Eye of the Beholder (2005)
Highly Rated!
Alex Kasman
Shortly after a stunning success in her research, personal tragedy forces a math professor to change careers and begin work at the NSA where her work on cryptography involves some difficult ethical decisions.... (more)
A Fable for Moderns (1955)
Lord Dunsany
A bank employee becomes bored with the restrictions of arithmetic and decides to let his mathematical computations enjoy the freedom of "modern" poets and artists. Although he loses his job at the bank,... (more)
The Fairytale of the Completely Symmetrical Butterfly (2003)
Dietmar Dath
I have long thought that Emmy Noether deserved to be the heroine of a work of mathematical fiction. I had even begun writing a story of my own to fill this gap. But, have no fear, since Dietmar Dath... (more)
Für immer in Honig (Forever in Honey) (2005)
Dietmar Dath
Site visitor Hauke Reddmann writes from Germany to tell me about this experimental German novel which includes diagrams from category theory. (For those who might not know, category theory is an abstract... (more)
The Feeling of Power (1957)
Highly Rated!
Isaac Asimov
An advanced society rediscovers the joys of multipying numbers BY HAND, a forgotten art. It's a gem. The author probably did not realize how quickly the premise of this story (people so dependent... (more)
Fermat's Best Theorem (1995)
Janet Kagan
A student comes up with what appears to be a proof of Fermat's Last Theorem. So, she gives it to her professor hoping that he will find a mistake in it (see below). It turns out that the professor is... (more)
Fermat's Lost Theorem (1994)
Jerry Oltion
This is a neat little story which plays on the fancy that one has found a very simple proof for Fermat's last theorem...if only one can write it down before the epiphany passes. A young mathematician... (more)
Fermat's Room (La Habitacion de Fermat) (2007)
Luis Piedrahita / Rodrigo Sopeña
In this Spanish thriller, four mathematicians are invited to a booby trapped room where they must solve mathematical puzzles to prevent the walls from closing in and crushing them. This leaves them little... (more)
Fermat's Last Tango (2000)
Highly Rated!
Joanne Sydney Lessner / Joshua Rosenblum
Fermat's Last Tango is an intelligently written, hilarious fantasia based on Andrew Wiles' 1993 proof of Fermat's Last Theorem. The main plot consists of a love triangle between Daniel Keane... (more)
The Fibonacci Confessions (2010)
Graham Wade
A historical novel telling the life story of Leonardo Pisano, perhaps the most famous European mathematician of the Middle Ages, better known today as Fibonacci. We know very little of the historical... (more)
Fillet of Man (1995)
Eliot Fintushel
A first contact short short. Prime numbers are the way humans and the aliens recognize each other. And the alien spaceship "looked like a topologist's diagram of an exploded torus". Published in ASIMOV'S (Sept 95) pp112-115. (more)
The Five Hysterical Girls Theorem (2000)
Rinne Groff
I think this play about a number theory conference at the British seaside at the turn of the 20th century may be misunderstood. The plot revolves around the neuroses of the senior researcher, Moses Vazsonyi,... (more)
The Flight of the Dragonfly (aka Rocheworld) (1984)
Robert L. Forward
A crew of humans travel to a distant planet to meet the intelligent lifeform we have discovered there. They turn out to be a race largely interested in mathematical problems (sounds very reasonable... (more)
Flowers Stained with Moonlight (2005)
Catherine Shaw
In this sequel to The Three-Body Problem, Vanessa Duncan is called upon to save an innocent young woman, falsely suspected of murdering her older and unlikable husband. Although there is no mathematics... (more)
The Fourth Dynasty (1936)
R.R. Winterbotham
A confused story of a couple (Victor and Georgiana) who go into cryogenic suspended animation for a million and a half years and wake up in the era of the Fourth Dynasty, the age of the Kora (first... (more)
The French Mathematician (1998)
Highly Rated!
Tom Petsinis
A fictionalized account (in first person) of the life and untimely death of Evariste Galois, originator of the mathematical subject now known as group theory. This is a story about a mathematician,... (more)
Funes el Memorioso [Funes, His Memory] (1942)
Jorge Luis Borges
Borges’ short story piece, “Funes, His Memory’ (or in other translations, “Funes, The Memorious”) discusses the phenomenal memory of an acquaintance, Ireneo Funes. Funes, at age nineteen,... (more)
The Ganymede Club (1995)
Charles Sheffield
A group of space explorers attempt to protect the secret that they are no longer aging in this well written SF novel. Although these (essentially) immortal characters are not especially mathematical,... (more)
Gauß, Eisenstein, and the ``third'' proof of the Quadratic Reciprocity Theorem: Ein kleines Schauspiel (1994)
Reinhard C. Laubenbacher / David J. Pengelley
It is presented as a dialogue/drama between Gauss and Eisenstein, talking about the third proof of Gauss's reciprocity theorem (perhaps the actors are supposed to draw symbols in the air to make the... (more)
A Gebra Named Al (1993)
Wendy Isdell
In this story, Julie falls asleep on her algebra book after spending a few frustrating minutes trying to finish her homework. An imaginary number comes to visit her in her room, and transports her to... (more)
Genghis Khan and 888 (2005)
Jason Earls
As one might guess from the title of the literary journal in which it was published ("Bust Down the Door and Eat All the Chickens #4"), this story is a bit strange. According to the author, it is absurdist... (more)
Getaway from Getawehi (1969)
Colin Kapp
Colin Kapp has written a few stories which have some good, hard SF mixed up with highly tongue-in-cheek, believable flights of fancy. The present story is set on the single planet, Getawehi, of a rogue... (more)
Getting the Combination (1982)
Isaac Asimov
Griswold figures out a combination by correctly guessing the next number in a sequence. AKA "Playing the Numbers". Published originally in the June 1982 issue of Gallery. (more)
The Girl Who Played with Fire (2009)
Stieg Larsson
In this sequel to the stunningly popular The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the self-taught, nearly autistic, young genius, Lisbeth Salander, once again becomes involved in a thrilling mystery allied with... (more)
Good Benito (1994)
Highly Rated!
Alan P. Lightman
This novel presents many instances in the life of mathematical physicist Bennett Lang, the "Benito" of the title. The different scenes, presented non-chronologically, cover most of his life from early... (more)
Gospel Truths (2007)
J.G. Sandom
Another novel in the same genre as The Da Vinci Code – an Earth-shaking secret which can destroy the Roman Catholic Church (as a character says, “Can you imagine the headline? ‘Christ found to... (more)
Harvey Plotter and the Circle of Irrationality (2011)
Nathan Carter / Dan Kalman
Harvey Plotter, who has a scar shaped like a radical sign on his forehead, must find all of the rational points on the circularum unititatus before the evil Lord Voldemorphism. The reader follows... (more)
The Heroic Adventures of Hercules Amsterdam (2003)
Melissa Glenn Haber
The plot focuses on a three inch tall boy who runs away from humans to live with mice, only to discover that the mice are regularly massacred by rats every seven years. The mice, however, cannot anticipate... (more)
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1979)
Douglas Adams
Everyone ought to read this trilogy of four (or is it five now?) books that brilliantly combine science fiction with the drollest of British humor. Despite my high regard for it, I've not added it to... (more)
The Housekeeper and the Professor (Hakase No Aishita Sushiki) (2004)
Highly Rated!
Yoko Ogawa
In the Japanese novel Hakase No Aishita Sushiki, a young single mother is hired to care for an older mathematician who is suffering from anterograde amnesia caused by a car accident. The professor, who... (more)
The Humans: A Novel (2013)
Matt Haig
After Cambridge mathematician Andrew Martin proves the Riemann Hypothesis, he is replaced by an alien whose job it is to prevent news of the discovery from spreading as it is their belief that humans are... (more)
I of Newton (1970)
Joe Haldeman
In this short story a mathematics professor accidentally summons a demon by cursing while working on a problem involving integration. The devil brags that he is able to disprove Fermat's last theorem,... (more)
I Sin Every Number (2007)
Jason Earls
This is another work of experimental fiction from Jason Earls that combines some real computational number theory, some mathematical terminology used within nonsense for poetic effect, and a science fiction... (more)
The Imaginary (1942)
Isaac Asimov
As Asimov notes in his afterword to it (in THE EARLY ASIMOV), it is mostly about the idea of applying mathematical formulae to psychology, which he later did with his psychohistory in the "Foundation"... (more)
The Imaginary Number (1956)
Yizhak Oren
In this peculiar and humorous story, a complete stranger shows up at physicist Benjamin's door, with an imaginary tale of their childhood friendship, marriage to twin sisters, and his deed to certain... (more)
In the Shadow of Gotham (2009)
Stefanie Pintoff
A murder mystery in which the victim is a female math grad student at Columbia University working on the Riemann Hypothesis. Gifted in math, Sarah had just begun her fourth year in Columbia's graduate... (more)
The Indian Clerk (2007)
David Leavitt
Acclaimed author, Leavitt, presents a fictionalized version of one of the most famous "human interest stories" in mathematical history: the short life and career of Srinivasa Ramanujan. Focusing largely... (more)
Into the Comet (1960)
Arthur C. Clarke
When a computer malfunction prevents the crew of a spaceship from being able to determine a trajectory back to Earth, they are forced to resort to using an abacus to aid in the computation. [Note that... (more)
The Ishango Bone (2012)
Paul Hastings Wilson
Amiele becomes the first female student at Trinity College and goes on to disprove the Riemann Hypothesis at the age of 26, but is denied the Fields Medal. Written as if it were her life story recorded... (more)
It's My Turn (1980)
Claudia Weill (director)
About a mathematician who writes a proof of the Snake Lemma at the speed of light. Her love interest was Michael Douglas, some sort of athlete. One mathematician I know claims he wrote a paper just... (more)
The Jester and the Mathematician (2000)
Alan R. Gordon
A short historical fiction piece involving Leonardo of Pisa ("Fibonacci"). Interesting story which features Fibonacci talking briefly about his rabbit-series/sequence, his abacus-duel with Pisa's foremost... (more)
Kandelman's Krim: A Realistic Fantasy (1957)
John Lighton Synge
Thanks for Tony Vance for pointing out to me that this novel by mathematical physicist J.L. Synge should be included in my database. It is difficult to find now, but it is clear that at the time of its... (more)
La formula di Ramanujan (2001)
Marco Abate (writer) / P. Ongaro (artist)
A trip from Berkeley to India via Oxford to recover the lost Ramanujan's notebooks, pursued independently by two (again, realistic) mathematicians, both driven by revenge, though of different kind. Along... (more)
The Last Theorem (2008)
Arthur C. Clarke / Frederik Pohl
Ranjit Subramanian, the protagonist in this science fiction novel, is a young Sri Lankan man who (re)discovers a short and elementary proof of Fermat's Last Theorem while enduring torture during an unjust... (more)
The Last Theorem (2008)
Buzz Mauro
A depressed music professor ponders Fermat's Last Theorem and the implications of its proof by Andrew Wiles. Like many of Mauro's other stories, this one is very well written, focusing not so much on... (more)
Letters to a Young Mathematician (2006)
Highly Rated!
Ian Stewart
I listed this one here before I had a chance to read it and am now wondering whether it should be counted as fiction at all. This is an excellent book which provides a lot of useful information about... (more)
Lewis (Episode: Whom the Gods Would Destroy) (2006)
Daniel Boyle (Screenwriter)
[I may need assistance from some British site visitors on this one!] An e-mail from Charles Freudenthal has suggested to me that the pilot episode of the TV Series "Lewis" (a spin-off of the popular Inspector... (more)
Life After Genius (2008)
M. Ann Jacoby
Although his family would normally expect him to stay in their small town and take over the family business (a combination of a furniture store and funeral home), Mead Fegley's "genius" gives him the unprecedented... (more)
life.exe (2006)
Jason Rogers
This work of fiction is not strictly narrative. It is hard to say what is happening since the characters live in the world of "the matrix". Not like the Wachowski Bros.'s epic trilogy of films (though... (more)
The Light of Other Days (2000)
Arthur C. Clarke / Stephen Baxter
Using the WormCam (a camera sent through a wormhole in space-time), it is possible to witness any event that is taking or has taken place in the universe. This makes privacy essentially an obsolete... (more)
Little Zero the Seafarer [Captain One's frigate] (1968)
Vladimir Levshin
[This Russian children's novel] is about the titular character (who appears in the other books [by Levshin]), sailing from the A bay through arithmetical, algebraical and geometrical seas, learning... (more)
Long Division (2003)
Michael Redhill
The title of this short story refers both to arithmetic, a beloved subject of the school age child at its center, and the separation that his mother feels from him and his father due to the child's extraordinary... (more)
The Loom of God: Mathematical Tapestries at the Edge of Time (1997)
Clifford Pickover
A group of time travelers journey back to the time of Pythagoras in an effort to see the origins of mystical mathematics. The journey continues as they explore numerous links between mathematics, nature and mysticism. Concepts featured: pentagonal numbers, perfect numbers, oblong numbers, the golden ratio, and fractals. Religious implications are also discussed. (more)
Lost in Lexicon: An Adventure in Words and Numbers (2010)
Pendred Noyce
This novel for middle school aged children seems at first rather similar to the Phantom Tollbooth, which was apparently a source of inspiration for its author. The plot is familiar: a boy and girl travel... (more)
Love Counts (2005)
Michael Hastings (libretto) / Michael Nyman (score)
This opera tells the tale of the surprising friendship between a boxer whose career and life are in decline and a mathematics professor who uses arithmetic as a tool to help him out. It premiered in March 2005 at Germany's Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe. Thanks to Peter Freyd for pointing it out to me. (more)
Luminous (1995)
Highly Rated!
Greg Egan
A truly wonderful story in which two math grad students discover that the things we consider to be "truths" in number theory are actually part of a dynamical system, subject to change over time and in... (more)
The Man Who Counted : A Collection of Mathematical Adventures (1949)
Highly Rated!
Malba Tahan
The Man who counted: delightful adventures of a medieval arabic mathematician. It is aimed at young readers (10+) but can be enjoyed by all. The mathematics is elementary but is all correct and nicely... (more)
The Man Who Dammed the Yangtze: A Mathematical Novel (2011)
Alex Kuo
A story of two number theorists at the opposite ends of the world having similar experiences of strife and disillusionment at times of great turmoil. Ge is a female mathematician teaching in schools in... (more)
The Mask of Zeus (1992)
Desmond Cory
Math is discussed a lot in this "Professor Dobie Mystery" novel because both the `detective' (Dobie) and the victim (his former Ph.D. student) are mathematicians. Of course, the math doesn't have much... (more)
Math Girls (2007)
Highly Rated!
Hiroshi Yuki
Three high school friends work through some difficult mathematical ideas in this book, recently translated into English from the Japanese original. The author is apparently well known in Japan for his... (more)
Mathematica (1936)
John Russell Fearn
Using a strange metal which gives them the power to change reality with their thoughts, two humans either summon or create an alien who explains to them that reality is mathematics. Together, they seek... (more)
Mathematica Plus (1936)
John Russell Fearn
In this sequel to Mathematica, the humans, now knowing that everything is mathematics and having been made immortal by the ultimate mathematician, encounter a race of beings somewhere between material... (more)
The Mathematician’s Nightmare: The Vision of Professor Squarepunt (1954)
Bertrand Russell
This short story by [renowned philosopher and mathematician Bertrand] Russell is a mild satire on numerology, taking [Sir Arthur] Eddington’s obsession with it and spinning it as a “nightmare”... (more)
The Mathematicians of Grizzly Drive (1988)
Josef Skvorecky
A detective story, in the "hard boiled" genre, featuring Eve Adam, a sexy nightclub performer who solves crimes in her free time. In this story, she visits a house where mathematicians gather to entertain... (more)
The Measure of Eternity (2006)
Sean McMullen
The beautiful servant of an even more beautiful courtesan leaves the palace in an ancient city and finds a beggar proudly shouting "I have nothing" in many different languages. Yet, this beggar seems... (more)
Measuring the World (2006)
Daniel Kehlmann
Two famous Germans of the 19th Century, mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss and explorer/geologist Alexander von Humboldt, are irreverently presented in this novel which topped the sales charts in Germany... (more)
Mercury Rising (1998)
Harold Becker (director)
Bruce Willis is an FBI agent trying to protect an autistic child whose mathematical abilities allow him to break the government's top secret codes. Now, it is true that some of the most frequently used... (more)
Mersenne's Mistake (2008)
Jason Earls
This is a nice piece of mathematical fiction in which the mathematician/monk Marin Mersenne encounters a demon with amazing mathematical skills. Like the other stories by Earls, this seems to be designed to showcase the interesting numbers which he has found using computer algebra tools. (more)
The Mind-Body Problem (1983)
Rebecca Goldstein
A philosophy graduate student seduces and marries a famous mathematician. They do not have a great marriage, but we are presented with some thought provoking passages concerning Princeton University,... (more)
The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996)
Barbra Streisand (director)
Love story with Jeff Bridges and Barbra Streisand as math and English professors (respectively) at Columbia University. We get a detailed description of the Twin Prime Conjecture (concerning the number... (more)
Mister God, This is Anna (1985)
Fynn
Though it is presented as if it were non-fiction, it is generally believed that this account concerning a very thoughtful six year old girl is a work of fiction. It is primarily about the girl's philosophy... (more)
Monster (2005)
Alex Kasman
A story about group theory, plagiarism, the untapped potential of a collaboration between mathematics and marketing, the bleak financial future of academia, and the Monster. This story talks about... (more)
Moriarty by Modem (1995)
Jack Nimersheim
A cyberversion of Sherlock Holmes is created to track down an accidently released cyberversion of Moriarty. The big clue involves both the binomial theorem and binomial variables. Published in... (more)
Napier's Bones (2011)
Derryl Murphy
In the fantasy/SF world of this novel, numerates are special people who are aware of the fact that numbers themselves are alive and can be coaxed or controlled into doing seemingly magical things for them.... (more)
Nena's Math Force (2005)
Susan Jarema
This picture book for children, which is available for free online and also in print, tells the story of a girl who is upset when her math teacher requires the class to do arithmetic without a calculator.... (more)
No One You Know (2008)
Michelle Richmond
Having felt overshadowed by her mathematician older sister when she was alive, the main character becomes obsessed with her murder after the sister is killed. Using her sister's notebook describing her... (more)
Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less (1976)
Jeffrey Archer
A mathematics professor who lectures at Oxford on group theory is among four clever people who plot to get revenge on the con artist who duped them in this, the first novel by politician and now best-selling... (more)
Number 9: The Search for the Sigma Code (1998)
Cecil Balmond
A young boy learns about mathematics while trying to solve a mathematical puzzle. "As a teacher and Education Inspector in England I would rate this book very highly. It is extremely well written... (more)
The Number Devil (Der Zahlenteufel) (1997)
Highly Rated!
Hans Magnus Enzensberger
"The title may be translated as The Counting Devil, or maybe The Number Devil, and it has a subtitle that translates to 'a pillowbook for everyone who is afraid of math'. Enzensberger is a respected... (more)
Numberland (1987)
George Weinberg
The co-author (with John Schumaker) of STATISTICS: AN INTUITIVE APPROACH, and practicing psychotherapist, tells a charming little fable about Numberland. Peace, harmony,... (more)
Oh, Brother (2007)
Stanley Hart
A serious mystery/adventure novella from an author better known as a script writer for the old Carol Burnett show. A professor solicits the help of his brother, a retired police detective, in order to... (more)
An Old Arithmetician (1885)
Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman
The title character of this short story, which appeared in the September 1885 issue of Harper's Weekly, is an old, uneducated woman who loves computing (with chalk and slate): You have always been very... (more)
Old Faithful (1934)
Raymond Z. Gallun
An extended discussion of the use of arithmetic in setting up a two-way communication code comprises the mathematical content of this forgotten classic SF short story. Gallun (rhymes with balloon)... (more)
The Pacifist (1966)
Arthur C. Clarke
Clarke, one of the all-time biggest names in serious science fiction, took time to write a series of humorous science fiction tall tales. The stories are narrated by one Harry ... (more)
Papos (2007)
Alex Rose
A short piece which mixes up historical facts/pseudo-facts from Greek history with rich imagination to discuss the discovery of irrational numbers (Pythagoras, Hippasus), the vanishing point in perspective... (more)
The Parrot's Theorem (2000)
Highly Rated!
Denis Guedj
This is an ambitious novel, a magical fantasy about a talking parrot bought at a flea market in France who, with the help of the personal library of a reclusive mathematical genius, teaches some children... (more)
Partition (2003)
Ira Hauptman
According to Ken Ribet's review of the San Francisco production in the Notices of the AMS, this play about the interaction between the mathematicians Hardy and Ramanujan explores the "partitions" that... (more)
Perry Rhodan 2638: Zielpunkt Morpheus-System (2012)
Marc A. Herren
The long-running German science fiction series Perry Rhodan recently ran a contest whose winner, a certain Martin Felten, was included in issue number 2638 as a space actuary and inventor of a five-dimensional... (more)
Pi (1998)
Highly Rated!
Darren Aronofsky (director)
A mathematician discovers a new relationship between chaos theory and the number Pi which makes him a target of a dangerous religious sect and a greedy investor. The references to mathematics and its... (more)
The Pi Man (1959)
Alfred Bester
I found this work in an anthology of Alfred Bester short stories "The Dark Side of the Earth". It is an ironic story of a man that calls himself the Pi Man (irrational) that tries to set a pattern... (more)
Powerball 310 (2007)
K.T. Reid
The premise of this amusing crime caper is a gang of experts who pull of a successful theft of a $310 million Powerball lottery jackpot by generating a winning ticket just after the numbers have been... (more)
Progress (2005)
Alex Kasman
The mathematics of ancient Egypt can look very strange to us today. For example, although they did not have many fractions, they did know about the number 2/3. Strangely, however, it took a page of computation... (more)
Pythagoras's Darkest Hour (2007)
Colin Adams
A humorous short story from the author of Mathematically Bent which tells the true story of the discovery of the Pythagorean Theorem. Well, actually, perhaps it isn't exactly true...but it is so good,... (more)
Pythagorean Crimes (2006)
Highly Rated!
Tefcros Michaelides
This murder mystery takes place amid the exciting developments occurring in the mathematical and artistic communities in Europe between 1900 and 1931. Much of what one will learn by reading this book... (more)
Rama II (1989)
Arthur C. Clarke /Gentry Lee
This is the sequel to the novel Rendezvous With Rama by Arthur C. Clarke. Short Summary: The huge cylindrical Rama spaceship has returned 70 years after it arrived near Earth for the first time.... (more)
Ramanujan’s Miracles – A Drama To Demystify Mathematics (1997)
R.N. Kapur
A dramatization involving a particular problem which Ramanujan had solved and how two teenagers reason out why the solution works. Scene 1 of the drama has Mahalanobis and Ramanujan in conversation... (more)
Reading by Numbers (2009)
Highly Rated!
Aidan Doyle
Elementary number theory and some superstitious numerology underlie this story, which appeared in the November 11, 2009 issue of the online Fantasy Magazine (though I would never describe this story as... (more)
Reality Conditions (2005)
Highly Rated!
Alex Kasman
The title story in the collection of the same name, this short story follows a mathematics grad student to a workshop at the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute. Although the story contains no supernatural... (more)
Der Rechenmeister [aka The Mathematician] (1999)
Dieter Jörgensen
When I browsed through your list I found one book missing that I have in my library: "Der Rechenmeister" by Dieter Jörgensen is a novel describing the life of Niccolo Tartaglia in Venice and his battle... (more)
Red Zen (2007)
Jason Earls
A man travels to another planet in an attemp to resolve a bizarre memory problem in this absurdist science fiction novel. As in his other works, Earls includes tidbits of computational number theory.... (more)
Report from the Ambassador to Cida-2 (2008)
Clifton Cunningham
The human selected to communicate with the aquatic aliens of Cida-2 is surprised to learn that their number system differs from our own. In particular, although our communication with the extra-terrestrials... (more)
A Rite of Spring (1977)
Fritz Leiber
Leiber has stretched out a very flimsy story line into a 50-page trivia-fest on the number seven. A genius of a mathematician yearns for his childhood ability to visualize and play with mathematics as... (more)
Round the Moon (1870)
Highly Rated!
Jules Verne
This early science fiction novel about space travel (published originally in French, of course) contains two chapters with explicit (and very nice) mathematical content. In Chapter 4 (A Little Algebra)... (more)
Rumpled Stiltskin (2004)
Colin Adams
Do you remember the old Fractured Fairy Tales segment on Rocky and Bullwinkle in which classic stories were updated with a twist? This is just like those. The old Grimm's Brother tale is retold, but... (more)
School Scandalle (2004)
Marla Weiss
In 80 short chapters (each of which has the word "First" in its title), this book relates the sordid details in the professional life of a computer science and math teacher at a private school in Florida.... (more)
The Secret Number (2000)
Highly Rated!
Igor Teper
In this very cute story, a mathematician who believes that there is an integer between 3 and 4 tries to convince his psychiatrist that he is not crazy. The idea is not very deep, but it is well handled... (more)
Silas P. Cornu's Dry Calculator (1898)
Henry Hering
A very hilarious short story about a man who wants to build a mechanical calculator to evaluate logarithms but has success building a machine that can do only addition and multiplication. On the other... (more)
Simple Genius (2007)
David Baldacci
A small child with an inexplicable ability to factor large numbers threatens the security of the Western world in this political thriller from popular author Baldacci. Although it is nice to see mathematics... (more)
Six Thought Experiments Concerning the Nature of Computation (2005)
Rudy Rucker
These are six very short stories, a few of which have mathematical themes. In the first story, Lucky Number, a game programmer spots some "lucky numbers" spray painted on a train. On a whim, he uses... (more)
The Solitude of Prime Numbers [La Solitudine dei Numeri Primi] (2008)
Paolo Giordano
The novel "La Solitudine dei Numeri Primi" (2008), written by a physics grad student, sold over a million copies in Italy and appeared in English as ``The Solitude of Prime Numbers'' (2010). It tells... (more)
Sophie's Diary (2004)
Highly Rated!
Dora Musielak
Sophie Germain famously studied mathematics at night by candlelight despite her parents' insistence that she give up this unfeminine discipline. She then went on to become one of the great mathematician's... (more)
Sorority House (1956)
Jordan Park (Cyril M. Kornbluth and Frederik Pohl)
Sorority House is a lesbian pulp novel written in 1956 by Cyril M. Kornbluth (1923-1958) and Frederik Pohl (1919- ) under the pen name "Jordan Park". The main character is a mentally unstable young... (more)
The Star Dummy (1952)
Anthony Boucher
I learned duodecimal (and the whole concept of number bases) from "The Star Dummy," by Boucher, in Conklin's Omnibus of Science Fiction. The teddybear-shaped six- fingered alien was trying to communicate with the koalas in the zoo until an open-minded human showed up and the two traded written numbers. Originally published in Fantastic in 1952. (more)
The Story of Yung Chang (1900)
Ernest Bramah (Ernest Bramah Smith)
Before the invention of multiplication tables, a Chinese idol merchant must sell his wares individually, even if someone wishes to purchase a large amount, since he has no way to determine how much money... (more)
The Strange Case of Mr. Jean D. (1983)
Joao Filipe Queiro
Published in the Mathematical Intelligencer magazine (Math.Intell. 5, 3 78-90 (1983)) this is the story of a mathematician who has a nightmare: Pi is rational! (Thanks to Nuno Crato for the suggestion.) (more)
Strip Search (2007)
William Bernhardt
A detective is aided by an autistic child in capturing a serial killer who leaves equations written in the blood of his victims at the scenes of the grisly crimes. In your MathFiction entry for William... (more)
Surreal Numbers: How Two Ex-Students Turned on to Pure Mathematics and Found Total Happiness (1974)
Don Knuth
The famous computer scientist (known to many grateful mathematicians as the creator of TeX) presents Conway's "surreal numbers" in the form of a fictionalized dialogue. Includes exercises! It... (more)
Szatan Z Siodmej Klasy (1949)
Kornel Makuszynski
Website visitor David Shay suggested that I add this Polish novel written for young adults in which one of the characters is an amateur mathematician attempting to prove Fermat's Last Theorem. Note... (more)
Tenet (2012)
Lorne Campbell/ Sandy Grierson
Évariste Galois is one of two characters in this play, whose full title is apparently "Tenet: A True Story About the Revolutionary Politics of Telling the Truth about Truth as Edited by Someone Who is... (more)
Three Days in Karlikania (1964)
Vladimir Levshin
A children's fantasy novel written in Russian. I have not been able to find much about it but Rob Milson says: Three children travel to Karlikania, an enchanted land populated by numerals. Here they... (more)
Thursday Next: First Among Sequels (2007)
Jasper Fforde
As Vijay Fafat points out, the eponymous heroine of this series of humorous, fantasy mysteries has a daughter who is a math prodigy. Among other things, in this novel she finds a counter-example to Fermat's... (more)
Tre per zero (1997)
T. Sclavi (writer) / B. Brindisi (artist)
An Italian comic book whose title translates as "Three Times Zero". A very surreal story where a (stereotypical but non-trivial) mathematician "discovers" that three times zero equal three, and we... (more)
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1943)
Betty Smith
You may be surprised to see Betty Smith's novel about a girl growing up poor in the early 20th century on this list. In fact, it is a stretch to call this "mathematical fiction". However, the little... (more)
Uncle Petros and Goldbach's Conjecture (1992)
Highly Rated!
Apostolos Doxiadis
This novel, recently (2000) translated from Greek, follows the attempts of fictional mathematician Petros Papachristos to prove Goldbach's Conjecture (that every even number greater than two is the sum... (more)
Vault of the Beast (1940)
Alfred Elton van Vogt
"A creature of vast powers is locked up inside a vault made up of ultimate metal. The key to freeing it turns out to be 'factoring the ultimate prime number', which procedure is given an extended pseudomathematical... (more)
The Visiting Professor (1994)
Highly Rated!
Robert Littell
Lemuel Falk, a ``randomnist'' from the Steklov Institute in Russia gets a visiting position at a chaos research institute in Upstate New York in this academic farce. He meets a drunkard who studies... (more)
Whom the gods love: The story of Evariste Galois (1948)
Leopold Infeld
A fictionalized biography of the ill-fated originator of group theory written by a collaborator of Einstein (better known today for his joint work with Max Born on electrodynamics). “No professor... (more)
The Wild Numbers (1998)
Highly Rated!
Philibert Schogt
Most mathematicians dream of proving a terribly important result. In this novel, mathematician Isaac Swift thinks he has done just that: solved "Beauregard's Wild Number Problem". But is his proof... (more)
Ylem (1994)
Eliot Fintushel
Another Fintushel Big-Bang-And-Back Totally-Weird adventure, the plot concerns a business conflict in the helium market. Somebody dickered with the primordial nucleosynthesis, and ... (more)
Young Beaker (1973)
J.T. Lamberty, Jr.
A singular individual who knows how to do mental arithmetic triumphs over peers in a future where everyone has become dependent on calculators and computers. That description would apply equally to this... (more)
Zéro, ou les Cinq vies d'Aemer (2005)
Denis Guedj
This novel traces the history of the number `zero' through the lives of five different women, living in five different eras, but all living in the same place: Mesopotamia/Iraq. Guedj is already known... (more)

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Your Help Needed: Some site visitors remember reading works of mathematical fiction that neither they nor I can identify. It is time to crowdsource this problem and ask for your help! You would help a neighbor find a missing pet...can't you also help a fellow site visitor find some missing works of mathematical fiction? Please take a look and let us know if you have seen these missing stories anywhere!.

(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)