Entertaining maths books to make you think

Tuesday 12th January 2021

Here are details of three very different maths books that will make you think. The first is a book which has a puzzle to solve; you’ll need to use your problem-solving skills and the internet to submit your answers and get the keys to move forward. The second is all about what happens in the real world when maths goes wrong. The third is the life story of an incredible mathematician.

Journal 29: Interactive Book Game by Dimitris Chassapakis

ISBN-10: 1635871727; ISBN-13: 978-1635871722

Journal 29: Interactive Book Game is a unique book game where you can solve riddles and puzzles, and submit your answers online to get the keys and move forward. To solve the riddles, you need to think out of the box. You can write, draw, search, fold pages, and combine different methods to try to get the riddles right.

This is a book which will entertain anyone from secondary school age to adult. It works well when working with others too.

The story: A top secret excavation did not bring any result for 28 weeks. It was on the 29th week that something unexpected happened. The team disappeared and the only thing that was left behind was their journal. You must solve the riddles in order to solve the mystery.

To play you will need:

  • A copy of Journal 29
  • A pencil
  • An internet connected device (a smartphone)

Humble Pi: A Comedy of Maths Errors by Matt Parker

ISBN-10: 0141989149; ISBN-13: 978-0141989143

What makes a bridge wobble when it's not meant to? What makes billions of dollars mysteriously vanish into thin air?

The answer is maths. Or, to be precise, what happens when maths goes wrong in the real world. Our modern lives are built on maths: computer programmes, finance, engineering and most of the time this maths works quietly behind the scenes, until... it doesn't. This book shows how, by making maths our friend, we can learn from its pitfalls. It also contains puzzles, challenges, geometric socks, jokes about binary code, and three deliberate mistakes. Getting it wrong has never been more fun.

A very interesting and enjoyable book – great fun and definitely worth a read.

The Man Who Loved Only Numbers: The Story of Paul Erdos and the Search for Mathematical Truth by Paul Hoffman

ISBN-10: 1857028295; ISBN-13: 978-1857028294

The biography of a mathematical genius. Paul Erdos was the most prolific pure Mathematician in history and, arguably, the strangest too. A mathematical genius of the first order, Paul Erdos was totally obsessed with his subject – he thought and wrote about maths for nineteen hours a day until he died. He travelled constantly, living out of a plastic bag, and had no interest in anything that is usually indispensible to a human life.

For six decades, Erdos had no job, no hobbies, no wife, no home; he never learnt to cook, do laundry or drive a car. Instead, he travelled the world arriving at the doorstep of esteemed mathematicians declaring, “my brain is open”. He travelled until his death at 83, racing across four continents to prove as many theorems as possible, fuelled by a diet of espresso and amphetamines. With more than 1,500 papers written or co-written, a daily routine of 19 hours of maths a day, seven days a week, Paul Erdos was one of the most extraordinary thinkers of our times.

This is an entertaining story of a great mathematician, with interesting anecdotes about how he coped more easily with mathematical problems than practical matters like tying his shoelaces. Inspirational even for those who don’t love maths.

By Jean Smith

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