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The Mathematical Experience, by Philip J. Davis and Reuben Hersh. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. 440 pp. $9.95.

Not everyone's bedtime reading, but one needn't have any great skill in mathematics to enjoy it, either. The authors, professors at Brown, aren't trying to teach technical competence but something of the excitement mathematicians find in their work.

These interesting and challenging essays draw on some 15 years of discussions with students, colleagues, and friends to bring out the interplay between the practical needs of business people, financiers, and corporate planners and the mathematics those needs have inspired. In scope and aim, the book lies somewhere between James R. Newman's classic ''The World of Mathematics'' and Morris Kline's ''Mathematics: The Loss of Certainty.'' It represents the same high quality of writing for lay readers.

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