a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Fear of Math (1985)
Peter Cameron

Contributed by Vijay Fafat

A feather-touch story about a young woman who comes to New York to do an MBA - and has to pass a Calculus course, a pre-requisite for an MBA. A brief description of how utterly lost she is after her first class is followed by a short fling with the instructor, who becomes her tutor (with a pick-up line; "you do have Math genes, they just need to be aroused"). A poignant story about her parents is also woven in. She ends up breaking up with the instructor and trying to pass the calculus exam on her own. After overcoming some internal doubts, she succeeds in the exam on her second attempt and concludes: "After the ordeal of Calculus, business school was manageable".

The story is written quite beautifully, though I couldn't quite figure out the connection between the two threads of the story (if the author had ever intended there to be one). It does not go overboard in describing the difficulties people have getting over their Math fear and skims well on the surface.

Note that the author is a professional mathematician and has written a few articles showing the need for the public to not be fearful of mathematics in general. (See this link for example.)

This story appeared in The New Yorker on March 11, 1985 and was republished in the collection All Problems are Simple that presents a variety of first-person accounts of university students.

More information about this work can be found at
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Works Similar to Fear of Math
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Dr. Casey’s Temporization by Jean McGarry
  2. Final Exam by Robert Dawson
  3. Mathemagics by Patricia Duffy Novak
  4. Q.E.D. by Jack Eric Morpurgo
  5. The Old Mathematician by Dinah Maria Muloch
  6. Advanced Calculus of Murder by Erik Rosenthal
  7. Stand and Deliver by Ramon Menendez
  8. Rough Strife by Lynne Sharon Schwartz
  9. El matemático by Arturo Azuela
  10. The Song of the Geometry Instructor by Ralph M. Berry
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MotifAcademia, Romance, Math Education,
TopicAnalysis/Calculus/Differential, Mathematical Finance,
MediumShort Stories,

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Exciting News: The 1,600th entry was recently added to this database of mathematical fiction! Also, for those of you interested in non-fictional math books let me (shamelessly) plug the recent release of the second edition of my soliton theory textbook.

(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)