Monday, March 17, 2008

Amusements in Mathematics - A Timeless Classic of Math Puzzles

Henry Ernest Dudeney, English author and mathematician, became a legend with his math puzzle creations. He specialized in logic puzzles and math games. One of his greatest and most noted achievements, however, is his book, Amusements in Mathematics.

Amusements in Mathematics is one of the largest collections of puzzles with 430 brainteasers. All of the puzzles contained within the book are based on algebra, arithmetic, permutations, probability, plane figure dissection, properties of numbers and other mind bending math puzzles and math brain teasers. Critics hail it as "intriguing" and "witty." Amusements in Mathematics is said to be a "paradoxical production of one of the world's foremost creators of puzzles." It includes the puzzles as well as complete solutions.

Dudeney always had a passion for mathematics. He voiced his views very liberally. "A good puzzle should demand the exercise of our best wit and ingenuity," He said, "and although a knowledge of mathematics and of logic are often of great service in the solution of these things, yet it sometimes happens that a kind of natural cunning and sagacity is of considerable value."

When Dudeney wrote the preface to Amusements in Mathematics, he expressed his own views and opinions on puzzles in general. He also made several comments about puzzles that were in the book.

The difficulty of the math puzzles, according to Dudeney, were quite varied. Some math puzzles, particularly the ones that fell into the arithmetical and algebraically categories were very easy. He did warn his readers, though, that they should not overlook or dismiss puzzles that appeared on the surface to be very simple. He alluded to some of the math brain teasers as having traps or sublet pitfalls that could add a twist to the puzzle, giving it a degree of complexity and difficulty.

Dudeney also warned his readers to read the wording of the puzzles very carefully. He indicated that it would be in the reader's best interest to be prudent and wary when reading over the exact wording of the puzzles. He believed that this was a good exercise and a very good habit to cultivate. His beliefs were that it teaches exactitude and caution. Thus he added some twists and turns to the wording of his math puzzles to give his readers a little extra challenge.

The difficult math puzzles, according to Dudeney, could be quite challenging and some of the problems were, in his words, "very hard nuts indeed." His more challenging math puzzles, he explained, were advanced enough to warrant the attention of even expert mathematicians. And in some cases, even these expert mathematicians were left scratching their heads over some of Dudeney's math brain teasers.

Dudeney left his readers a vast selection of math puzzles so that there was something for everyone. He wanted readers to select puzzles in the book according to their individual taste. This resulted in a well rounded book that has math puzzles that are appropriate for nearly every member of the family. There are the simple problems for the youngsters and exceptionally challenging ones for the older more advanced family members.

Amusements in Mathematics by Henry Ernest Dudeney is a timeless classic. It is appropriate for family night, in the classroom or in a meeting of college professors. There is something to appeal to every taste and mathematical level. What's more, it is an entertaining, educational book that reminds us, even today, that math is fun.

Rowan Shead

Amusements in Mathematics

Amusing Math Puzzles of Henry Dudeney will have you Pulling your Hair Out



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