Want a fun way for your older students to avoid mathematical/logical brain drain over the summer? Have them complete a puzzle or two each day from the free eBook, Amusements in Mathematics by Henry Ernest Dudeney.
Amusements in Mathematics contains 430 mathematical puzzles (and, fortunately, their solutions).
Every puzzle that is worthy of consideration can be referred to mathematics and logic. Every man, woman, and child who tries to “reason out” the answer to the simplest puzzle is working, though not of necessity consciously, on mathematical lines. Even those puzzles that we have no way of attacking except by haphazard attempts can be brought under a method of what has been called “glorified trial”—a system of shortening our labours by avoiding or eliminating what our reason tells us is useless. It is, in fact, not easy to say sometimes where the “empirical” begins and where it ends.
When a man says, “I have never solved a puzzle in my life,” it is difficult to know exactly what he means, for every intelligent individual is doing it every day.
Many of the puzzles will be familiar, if couched in a different setting. Some of the puzzles will be easily solved, even by the beginner. But others will challenge even the student with the mathematical bent!
As for the question of difficulty, some of the puzzles, especially in the Arithmetical and Algebraical category, are quite easy. Yet some of those examples that look the simplest should not be passed over without a little consideration, for now and again it will be found that there is some more or less subtle pitfall or trap into which the reader may be apt to fall. It is good exercise to cultivate the habit of being very wary over the exact wording of a puzzle. It teaches exactitude and caution. But some of the problems are very hard nuts indeed, and not unworthy of the attention of the advanced mathematician. Readers will doubtless select according to their individual tastes.
Among the different types of puzzles included, you’ll find:
- “Magic” square.
- And those that encourage you to find the shortest path.
Once known, some of the answers seem to be rather obvious — “why didn’t I think of that?” But others will require a full reading of the detailed solution. And of course, working through the book systematically and reading a solution to one problem makes the solution of a similar problem all the easier to find.
Note: A few problems rely on the reader’s understanding of the old British system of currency. This should present no real challenge to the real puzzle worker. (And as an extra help, the transcribers have included this helpful information in a chart at the beginning of the book.)
Amusements in Mathematics will keep your student’s mind active. Present him with the challenge of completing (or at least trying to complete and at a minimum understanding) one puzzle each day. This habit when fully developed will leave him eager to pursue more mental fodder when he finishes the book by the end of next summer!