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on 19 September 2014
This has been my "coffee table" book that I like to just dip into occasionally, when I have spare 5-10 minutes. This is because it's full of lots of little bits, with no overall narrative. It's not quite a school exercise book, but it does have quite a lot of puzzles for you to think through, some of which require some scribbling with some pen & paper or plugging numbers into a calculator. As well as these, there are lots of little vignettes of mathematical thought which inform but require less input from the reader.

So my initial advice for any readers of this would be get a notepad and some pens and keep them nearby. Fans of recreational mathematics will find much that is familiar here, as some problems recur in just about every such 'popular' level book on maths, such as the problem of the bridges of Konigsberg or lots of factoids about pi.

That may sound like damning with faint praise, but there is a depth of mathematics on display here that is rather splendid. Many of the ideas are really quite profound, yet the way they are presented makes them quite accessible. A non mathematician might disagree with me, but it may be interesting to find out from others if there are areas where they get stuck.

There is a general trend for the puzzles to get a little bit more difficult later on in the book. So we are given some treats that will be unfamiliar even to those who did maths at A-level. We deal with topics ranging from geometry, number theory, topology and even some complexity is thrown in at the end.

I probably ought to add that for any sections that ask questions there are answers provided at the back of the book. Most are pretty good, though if the book does have any weaknesses, it is here, where some of the answers are given with not enough explanation. Though for recreational mathematics, one of the litmus tests has to be how well the solution to the Monty Hall problem is described and this one is very fair.

There is a follow-up book that Ian Stewart wrote, in the same vein but with a different set of problems. Given the quality of this work, I will be reading that as well, so you can look forward to seeing another review like this when I get around to it.
3 people found this helpful
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on 17 May 2013
Really enjoyed reading through these curiousities and problems. This is a book I will dip into again over the years. My only issue is that I would like the problems and puzzles to be grouped into easy, hard amd harder etc. The wonderful Martin Gardmer books are also an eclectic mix like this. It makes it difficult when trying to find a lovely teaser for younger children or if ta teen wants to look through the book themselves - it can all seem quite daunting - though I guess teens are not exactly the target market
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on 18 January 2018
Bought as a present Can't comment
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on 23 May 2016
A very good book, that has started to inspire my daughter beyond the norms of her maths school work.
One person found this helpful
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on 25 February 2018
Great
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on 2 February 2016
Really interesting, but not for beginners. A level I suggest at least. But some of the tricks could be useful for KS1 children as well.
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on 3 April 2014
You don't have to start at the beginning of this book. You can open on any page and read about how maths work such as why you cannot divide by zero. I would share the games and puzzles with my younger siblings from this book, to help develop their problem solving skills and they find these games and puzzles so much fun than maths at school. It's a great book to share with family and friends, and it really gives you a bigger picture as to how far the knowledge of maths goes.
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on 29 September 2017
Very good
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on 3 August 2016
Present for child
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on 14 November 2017
Eclectic mix of easy to follow puzzles, with solutions thankfully. Useful for starters, or revision lessons in teaching.
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