You are here

Short Course

The MAA Short Course is made possible through contributions to the William F. Lucas Fund made in honor of William F. Lucas.

The Mathematics of Games and Puzzles

Part 1: Tuesday, July 30, 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., Connecticut Convention Center, Room 11
Part 2: Wednesday, July 31, 8:00 a.m. - 6:30 p.m., Connecticut Convention Center, Room 11

In this course, you will learn about the mathematics that underlies many of the great games and puzzles that people enjoy today. Imagine impressing your friends, students, or fellow classmates with your ability to solve the Rubik’s cube or almost any Sudoku. Learn the optimal basic strategy for playing blackjack, along with some simple card counting techniques. Learn the mathematics needed to play great poker or expert backgammon. Since you’re a mathematician, most people assume that you’re already good at these things. This course will teach you those skills and you’ll learn some fun mathematics along the way.

Organizer and Presenter:

Arthur Benjamin, Harvey Mudd College


The Game Plan


  • Great Expectations and Winning Wagers
  • Optimal Blackjack and Simple Card Counting
  • Games You Can't Lose and Impossible Puzzles
  • How to Solve and Understand Rubik's Cube


  • Zero Sum Games and Practical Poker Probabilities
  • Expert Backgammon
  • Solving Sudoku and KenKen
  • Chess and Games of Pure Strategy

The average lecture time is 75 minutes, and all material will be accessible to undergraduates. All lectures will be given by Arthur Benjamin, Professor of Mathematics at Harvey Mudd College. Dr. Benjamin is a past co-editor of Math Horizons, an MAA-Award winning teacher and author, and a past winner of the American Backgammon Tour. He has created four DVD courses for The Great Courses, including one on The Mathematics of Games and Puzzles.