You are here

Mathematical Bafflers

Angela Dunn
Dover Publications
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
[Reviewed by
Charles Ashbacher
, on

The world of mathematical puzzles is a rich one, yet is generally based on a small number of fundamental principles. Even though you may know the solution strategy for a type of puzzle, however, when presented with a new one you are essentially starting over. For example, the logic type of puzzle (John, George, Sam and Joe are married to Joan, Jenna, Janet and Judy. John is not married to Judy…) is a staple and many of that type are found in this book. Solving the problem means determining what you know and following a sequence of scenarios until the solution is found. No matter how many you solve, if the puzzle is well written it is still a challenge.

To me, the quality of the writing of the puzzles is what differentiates this book from the others. Having read many puzzle books in my years as a reviewer, my identification of the type of problem is often immediate. While that did often happen, there were many where I had to slow down my reading pace so that I could clearly understand the scenario.

The puzzles in this book were selected from the problems that appeared in the weekly “Problematical Recreations” column in Aviation Week and Electronic News. These are considered the best that appeared over the course of 12 years. Very little in the way of mathematical skill is needed to solve them, yet that does not make them easy, even for professional mathematicians/problem solvers. All solutions are included and like the great puzzles, generally obvious after the fact.

Math teachers from late elementary school all the way through college will be able to find something in this book that they can use to enliven their classrooms. No calculators or other computational devices are required, only an open brain and perhaps pencil and paper. 

Charles Ashbacher splits his time between consulting with industry in projects involving math and computers, and teaching college classes. He is the editor of a series of books entitled Topics in 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.