Math for English Majors

A Human Take on the Universal Language

Coming Soon


By Ben Orlin

Formats and Prices




$39.00 CAD



  1. Hardcover $30.00 $39.00 CAD
  2. ebook $15.99 $20.99 CAD

In this trailblazing work from the internet’s most empathetic math teacher, Ben Orlin unravels the secrets behind the world’s most confounding language.
Math, it is said, is the "universal language.” But if a language brings people together, why does math make so many of us feel so alone? In Math for English Majors, bestselling author Ben Orlin (Math with Bad Drawings) offers fresh insights for the mathematically perplexed and mathematical masters alike.
As Orlin reveals, the “universal language” is precisely that: a language. It has nouns (numbers), verbs (calculations), and grammar (algebra). It has funny idioms (“exponential”), quirky etymologies (“squaring”), and peculiar ambiguities (“PEMDAS”). It even has its own form of literature, with equations ranging from the simple wisdom of A2 + B2 = C2 to the startling profundity of eπi + 1 = 0.
Along the way, he shares relatable stories of his own mathematical misunderstandings and epiphanies, as well as the trials and triumphs of his students. And, as always, he sheds further light and levity on the subject with his inept—yet strangely effective—drawings.


  • “A great read. I enjoyed every page. Orlin uses language to illuminate math and brilliantly shows people like me how the various domains of math interrelate. Along with his down-to-earth everyday analogues and humorous asides, the concepts become lightbulbs of understanding.”
    David Crystal, linguist and author of Everyday Shakespeare
  • “Ben Orlin demystifies everything about numbers and algebra that may have bugged you back in school. Even if you already love math, you’ll be enchanted by Ben’s fresh take on it.”
    Steven Strogatz, Professor of Mathematics, Cornell University, and author of Infinite Powers
  • “Master teacher Ben Orlin shows us what to keep our eye on in a technically demanding subject, revealing its humanity and its beauty.”
    Francis Su, author of Mathematics for Human Flourishing
  • "A charming guide to basic math delivered with Orlin's trademark whimsy, passion, and smarts."
    Alex Bellos, author of The Language Lover's Puzzle Book
  • "An incredibly fun book to read. Ben's drawings, explanations, and connections make all of the math feel so approachable and understandable. I would highly recommend this book to anyone."
    Howie Hua, math instructor at Fresno State
  • "The book is a more polished, extensive discussion of the concepts that pepper Orlin's blog, featuring his trademark caustic wit, a refreshingly breezy conversational tone, and of course, lots and lots of bad drawings. It's a great, entertaining read for neophytes and math fans alike because Orlin excels at finding novel ways to connect the math to real-world problems-or in the case of the Death Star, to problems in fictional worlds."
    Ars Technica, on Math With Bad Drawings
  • "Ben Orlin is terribly bad at drawing. Luckily he's also fantastically clever and charming. His talents have added up to the most glorious, warm, and witty illustrated guide to the irresistible appeal of mathematics."
    Hannah Fry, mathematician, University College London and BBC presenter, on Math With Bad Drawings
  • "MATH WITH BAD DRAWINGS is a gloriously goofy word-number-and-cartoon fest that drags math out of the classroom and into the sunlight where it belongs. Great for your friend who thinks they hate math - actually, great for everyone!"
    Jordan Ellenberg, author of How Not To Be Wrong, on Math With Bad Drawings
  • "Brilliant, wide ranging, and irreverent, Math with Bad Drawings adds ha ha to aha. It'll make you smile - plus it might just make you smarter and wiser."
    Steven Strogatz, Author of The Joy of X, on Math With Bad Drawings
  • "Orlin's ability to masterfully convey interesting and complex mathematical ideas through the whimsy of drawings (that, contrary to the suggestion of the title, are actually not that bad) is unparalleled. This is a great work showing the beauty of mathematics as it relates to our world. This is a must read for anyone who ever thought math isn't fun, or doesn't apply to the world we live in!"
    John Urschel, mathematician named to Forbes® "30 Under 30" list of outstanding young scientists and former NFL player, on Math With Bad Drawings

On Sale
Sep 3, 2024
Page Count
304 pages

Ben Orlin, Author

Ben Orlin

About the Author

Ben Orlin is the author of Math with Bad Drawings (as well as the blog of the same name),Change is the Only Constant. Math Games With Bad Drawings, and Math Games With Bad Drawings: The Ultimate Game Collection. His writing on math and education has appeared in The Atlantic, the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles TimesSlateVox, and Popular Science. He has taught middle and high school mathematics and has spoken about math and education at colleges and universities across the United States. He lives with his wife and two daughters in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Learn more about this author