Savant author says numbers can be made less intimidating through colours

Thinking in Numbers is a collection of essays about 'how maths illuminates our lives', by the autistic savant Daniel Tammet.

Thinking in Numbers
Daniel Tammet
Hodder & Stoughton

Why would anyone want to write about maths? Or rather, why would anyone want to read about maths? It takes a person who looks at numbers in a completely different way than most to make a book about maths make sense. Daniel Tammet, the British author and autistic savant, follows up his first two books with Thinking in Numbers, a collection of essays about "how maths illuminates our lives".

Tammet makes numbers friendly by giving them colours, both his own as a synaesthete, and from an Icelandic language perspective. Where "red" in English can be further described as "crimson", "scarlet" or "burgundy", so, too, in Icelandic, do numbers have varieties, depending on what they are modifying. Tammet makes numbers approachable and he makes them practical. But to truly absorb and accept Tammet's words, it could take the reader a lifetime to experience exactly how numbers are everywhere in our lives and can expand our understanding of things, if we choose to let them. "Numbers, properly considered," reasons Tammet, "make us better people."

* Ellen Fortini