Since it’s the time of year when you might be looking for mathematical gifts to buy for your friends, colleagues and loves ones, I thought I’d share some recommendations and suggestions for places to find gifts online.
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At this year’s MathsJam UK Gathering, I had the pleasure of running one of the Saturday Night Tables – a chance to invite attendees at the Gathering to drop by and play with something. Together with fellow Manchester MathsJam regular Andrew Taylor, I ran a table of Mathematical Drawing Hacks – ways to make drawing complex mathematical objects and shapes easier.
A while ago we announced a competition to win a copy of algebraic blackjack game 21X, which was recently successful on Kickstarter, smashing its funding target by an order of magnitude. If you’d like to pre-order a copy of the game, you can sign up to be notified when that’s possible.
We had over 30 entries in the competition, of which 20 achieved correct answers, and have picked a random set of winners to pass on to Naylor Games, who should be in touch with them by email in the next few days.
For anyone interested in seeing the answers, here’s what they were. As a reminder, the challenge here is to find a value for \(x\), given that \(n\) represents the number of cards, to get the total of all the card values closest to 21.
Today is the launch of the Kickstarter for 21X, a new card game from board game studio Naylor Games, which describes itself as ‘the Countdown numbers game meets blackjack’. The creators sent us a copy to play with, and I took it along to Manchester MathsJam for a road test. (Read on for info about how you can win a copy!)
Mathematician and ninja mathematical-thinking-prompter Alison Kiddle has been posting an image each day for the whole of August, each prompting some kind of mathematical question or discussion.
This is a review of David Acheson’s new book, which we were kindly sent a copy of to read.
In The Spirit of Mathematics: Algebra And All That, David has pulled together a collection of what he refers to as ‘elegant mathematics using only simple materials’ – neat, short algebraic proofs and definitions, models of physical systems and mathematical tricks and curiosities.
He includes all the classics, from proof by induction to Fibonacci numbers to hitting a snooker ball, and each is presented with enthusiasm, alongside stories of mathematicians – and fearlessly including all the equations and derivations (if every equation really did halve your readership, as Stephen Hawking believed, this would be a very brave book to publish). But the maths is well-explained and very approachable, and it’s refreshing to see it featured so prominently outside of a textbook.
The book is also filled with helpful diagrams and illustrations, as well as humorous asides, cartoons and pictures of many mathematicians (sadly, only one female mathematician is featured, and she’s included only for her joke about how hard she’s found it to get a proof…) – but the book is well-produced and clearly laid out, with well-defined, short chapters each with a clearly defined topic.
The result is a compendium of intriguing ideas which would fascinate and compel a keen mathematician wanting to learn more, and provide hours of intrigue and jumping-off points for further investigation. Most topics are only covered briefly, so a deeper understanding would need research elsewhere, but for an enthusiastic reader this would happen naturally. Each discovery is motivated by a real-world example, or an interesting puzzle or curiosity, and all the key topics from algebra are touched on in one way or another.
However, this book wouldn’t suit an inexperienced mathematician – given which steps in the calculations are described as ‘simple’, a reasonable level of maths is assumed, and I’d imagine a strong GCSE or A-level student, particularly one already keen to learn more, would get much more out of it than a younger student. It’d also suit an adult wishing to refresh their mathematical knowledge from school and pick up some new ideas. But despite the blurb on the back claiming ‘for those who dread the subject, this book may be an eye-opener’, I suspect that such a reader might struggle in places.
Overall, this is a well-presented celebration of the best parts of mathematics, and showcases just how powerful maths can be.