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Before Sudoku: The World of Magic Squares

Seymour S. Block and Santiago A. Tavares
Oxford University Press
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
[Reviewed by
Charles Ashbacher
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As the Sudoku phenomenon demonstrates, the public will willingly do mathematics, as long as it is presented in a form that is considered attractive and entertaining. The Sudoku puzzle is really nothing more than a 9 x 9 magic square with all nine nonzero digits repeated 9 times and with further limitations within the 3 x 3 subgrids and along the rows and columns.

The opening chapter is a brief introduction to the Sudoku puzzle with a short explanation of the basic solution strategy and the remainder of the book is a combination of a history of the magic square and variations to the basic squares. Some of the variations are the extension into additional dimensions, magic stars, annihilation magic squares, magic squares with internal characteristics, multiplication and division squares and some real-world applications of the squares. Many of the variations are quite interesting and I spent some time playing around with a few of the possibilities. No book on magic squares is complete without a few puzzles with solutions and this book is no exception.

Written at a level that the general public can understand, this book shows that there are more variations of the fundamental magic square than you can shake your sharpened Sudoku pencil at. If only someone could come up with a Sudoku-like puzzle that could be used to teach calculus.

Charles Ashbacher splits his time between consulting with industry in projects involving math and computers, teaching college classes and co-editing The Journal of Recreational Mathematics. In his spare time, he reads about these things and helps his daughter in her lawn care business.

The table of contents is not available.