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Review: The Illustrated Lilavati, by Somdip Datta


Somdip Datta wrote in to tell us about his illustration of the classic maths textbook, Lilavati, by the Indian mathematician Bhāskara II.

Lilavati contains definitions, algorithms and problems dealing with arithmetic, geometry, combinations, and quadratic equations, all written in meter.

xB76rOPThis edition is really just a sample of the original book, with a few illustrated excerpts interspersed with information about the history of the book and its translations, along with solutions and some hints to the questions.

It’s an interesting book, and the information pages add valuable context to explain, for example, why Bhāskara’s method of multiplication made more sense for someone working on a dust-board instead of on paper. The questions could divert, say, a table of MathsJam attendees, for an hour or so. While the maths involved is very simple (one theory is that Bhāskara wrote the book for his daughter), the framing livens things up a bit – monkeys leap from trees, archers shoot everyone up, and merchants share gems equally. It’s literally a textbook example of fake-world maths problems, but that’s not always a bad thing.

Unfortunately, the translation used is from 1816, so the language used in the questions is quite old-fashioned and cumbersome, making some of them into challenges of your parsing ability rather than of maths. The illustrations are pleasant enough, and the print is very large so it’s readable on a phone screen.

At $0.99, there are worse ways of spending your money, but don’t expect it to last you more than an hour or so.

More information

The Illustrated Lilavati by Somdip Datta, available on iTunes, Google Play and Kindle, from LiLBooX.

Lilāvati on Wikipedia

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