See Math Like a Mathematician

If doing your math practice questions feels more like drowning in a sea of numbers and symbols than solving a puzzle, read on.

We’re firm believers that everyone learns well visually, which is why we include professionally-animated explanations in our ACT/SAT prep course. We’ve put together a list of a few of our favorite websites and books for visualizing math, below:

Math Study Guide for the ACT

Websites for Visualizing Math

Math With Bad Drawings

Ben Orlin, one of our math content creators, shares comics (his own), math musings, and answers to math questions you never knew you had on his blog Math With Bad Drawings. Ben’s drawings are “bad,” but those little colored pencil drawings are great visual aids to uncover complicated mathematical concepts.  

3Blue1Brown

Grant Sanderson’s goal with for 3Blue1Brown is “for explanations to be driven by animations and for difficult problems to be made simple with changes in perspective.” Grant creates animated math videos on YouTube that do just that. Most of the content is a bit above the level of the ACT or the SAT–more like college-level math–but it’s incredible.

Catriona Shearer

Catronia Shearer posts elegant, deceptively simple (but really challenging) geometry puzzles on Twitter. We’re pretty sure she’s a genius.

Desmos

Desmos is a great interactive site for graphing and manipulating complex functions. Type in your function on the left and watch your graph change as you manipulate variables. This is an amusing example.

IXL

IXL has hundred of practice problems for all levels of math. There are answers and explanations for each question, and if you create an account you can track your progress.

Vi Hart

Vi Hart explains mathematical concepts armed with Sharpie markers and some creative analogies. The author goes into more complex math (but still in an accessible way) than you’ll use on the ACT or SAT test, but it’s an exemplary channel for learning to love the patterns and intricacies of math theory.

Numberphile

Another YouTube channel that breaks down big math concepts and makes them accessible.

Better Explained

The goal of Better Explained is to “help you truly understand new concepts” through articles and graphics. They keep the big picture in mind when explaining concepts so you always know where you’re going.

Books for Visualizing Math

Math With Bad Drawings – Ben Orlin (who we mentioned above) wrote a book!

Real Life Math Investigations – Edward Zaccaro

The Grapes of Math – Alex Bellos

Here’s Looking at Euclid – Alex Bellos

Factfullness – Hans Rosling

How Not to Be Wrong – Jordan Ellenberg

If you’re looking for more, here are some books that aren’t necessarily for visualizing math. . . but they are books recommended by our friend Ben Orlin, who we’d trust with our lives on this topic.

“Pop Math” books:

Joy of X – Steve Strogatz

Math history/biography:

Genius at Play – Siobhan Roberts

Fermat’s Enigma – Simon Singh

The Man Who Only Loved Numbers – Paul Hoffman

Math-adjacent books:

Hello, World – Hannah Fry

Lost in Math – Sabine Hossenfelder

Also, all the puzzle books by Martin Gardner are classics, and you can find several for free online.
The goal when learning math is to learn why and how the numbers interact so you don’t become a rote, rule-following robot. Numbers are fascinating and complex, but memorizing the rules without context will make them seem boring. Try these resources for visualizing math and see if they change your relationship with the subject. Let us know what you think by emailing us or sharing your thoughts on one of our social media platforms:

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2 thoughts on “See Math Like a Mathematician”

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