Puzzlebomb – December 2016

Puzzlebomb LogoPuzzlebomb is a monthly puzzle compendium. Issue 60 of Puzzlebomb, for December 2016, can be found here:

Puzzlebomb – Issue 60 – December 2016 (printer-friendly version)

The solutions to Issue 59 will be posted around one month from now.

This will be the last regular monthly Puzzlebomb – in future, there will be occasional one-offs but regular editions are taking a break. If you have any ideas for puzzles, please send them in! Previous issues of Puzzlebomb, and their solutions, can be found at Puzzlebomb.co.uk.

Association for Women in Maths essay contest

The Association for Women in Mathematics in the USA is running its annual essay contest again, open to students in three age categories from Grade 6 to undergraduate.

Here’s the blurb:

To increase awareness of women’s ongoing contributions to the mathematical sciences, the Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM) and Math for America are co-sponsoring an essay contest for biographies of contemporary women mathematicians and statisticians in academic, industrial, and government careers.

The essays will be based primarily on an interview with a woman currently working in a mathematical sciences career. This contest is open to students in the following categories: Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12, and College Undergraduate. At least one winning submission will be chosen from each category. Winners will receive a prize, and their essays will be published online at the AWM web site. Additionally, a grand prize winner will have his or her submission published in the AWM Newsletter.

The deadline for entries is January the 31st 2017, and if you want the AWM to pair you up with an interviewee, you need to get a request in by January 10th.

All the prize-winning essays from previous years are online, including this nice one about Tanya Khovanova by high school student Emily Jia.

More information

AWM essay contest

Contest rules

Past winners

CP’s solid used as the basis of a puzzle

Back in 2013, our own Christian Lawson-Perfect came up with a way of making a solid from the smallest non-Hamiltonian graph, the Herschel Graph. Called the Herschel Enneahedron, it’s got nine faces (three squares and six kites) and the same symmetries as the graph itself.


The most recent news is that Spektrum magazine – sort of a German version of New Scientist – has included in its regular puzzle column a Herschel Enneahedron-related challenge. Here’s Google’s best effort at translating it:

Please make a polyhedron of 3 squares and 6 cover-like kite rectangles with suitable dimensions (in your thoughts, drawings or with carton). What symmetry properties does it have, how many corners and edges? Is it possible to make a (Hamilton-) circular path on its edges, which takes each corner exactly once and does not use an edge more than once?

Before you get out your cartons and start working on this, given that we started from a graph which isn’t Hamiltonian, you may have a slight spoiler on the answer here… but the solution given includes some nice videos and explanation as to how the solid is formed.

Treitz Puzzles 313, at Spektrum.de

The maths of the Grime Cube

Not content with already having five cubes named after him, internet maths phenomenon James Grime has now developed a new Rubik’s cube-style puzzle for internet maths joy merchants Maths Gear. I’ve been slightly involved in the development process, so I thought I’d share some of the interesting maths behind it.

Another name for a Rubik’s cube is ‘the Magic Cube’ – and Dr James Grime wondered if you could make a Magic Cube which incorporates its 2D friend, the Magic Square.

“Mathematics: The Winton Gallery” opens at Science Museum

Image by Jody Kingzett

The Science Museum in London has for a long time had a maths gallery; if you didn’t already know that, it’s probably because it was old, stuffy, full of random maths objects (so, very cool if you’re me), and not very easy to find. They’ve updated the gallery, working with the architect Dame Zaha Hadid, to produce a new space which hopefully brings the gallery up to date.

After a preview opening event, reports seem to be largely positive – the gallery has taken the approach of focusing on the way mathematics impacts the real world, rather than the actual maths itself. It contains lots of interesting artefacts and stories about the history of the way people have interacted with mathematics, although according to observers, no equations (boo!).

It’s been written up by a few design-focused websites, but the best articles to get a sense of it are Alex Bellos’ write-up in the Guardian, and a piece by BBC arts editor Will Gompertz (although one wonders if the BBC couldn’t have sent their science, or in a magical fairyland, maths correspondent to cover this).

The gallery is open at the Science Museum, Exhibition Road, London, starting 8th December, daily from 10am-6pm, and is free to visit.

More information

Mathematics: The Winton Gallery on the Science Museum website

Paper about student use of a learning space in mathematics

Sheffield Hallam University Maths DepartmentOne of the nice things about working in mathematics at Sheffield Hallam University is the environment in which I work. The maths department is a big, open learning space for students surrounded by staff offices. It’s a busy place, full of activity and plenty of opportunities to interact with students and other staff.

This space was renovated for mathematics a little before I arrived. It was designed to enhance student engagement and to create this sense of community, to allow collaborative learning and encourage inter-year interactions.

Over the last year, we conducted a study of use of the space. This included observations of use of the space as well as questionnaires and interviews with students about their use of the space, including students who had studied in the department in the old and new locations.

The results have just been published as ‘The role of informal learning spaces in enhancing student engagement with mathematical sciences‘ by Jeff Waldock, Peter Rowlett, Claire Cornock, Mike Robinson & Hannah Bartholomew, which is online now and will appear in a future issue of International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology (doi:10.1080/0020739X.2016.1262470).