Can You Solve My Problems? Ingenious, Perplexing, and Totally Satisfying Math and Logic Puzzles by Alex Bellos

Review published on January 1, 2017.

Puzzles of all sorts have fascinated people for centuries. They have varied from riddles to counting challenges, crosswords and logic puzzles to mathematical conundrums. Spending 20 minutes or so on a puzzle is not wasted time; it has been shown that puzzles can in some instances improve cognitive ability. Such a notion is not conclusive, but it’s certainly true that the main draw for doing all sorts of puzzles is that they are fun. Some of our greatest minds, including codebreakers and Nobel Prize winners, have used puzzles to keep their minds sharp and as a distraction from normal life.

The popular maths guru Alex Bellos has bought together all sorts of different puzzles into one book. These 125 different puzzles have been grouped together into broad categories such as logic, geometry and, of course, the mathematical ones. Each puzzle has an introduction and a little history about it, which makes for fascinating reading. Some of the puzzles that Bellos has found for us to stretch our grey matter with are deceptively simple, although there are some in here that are fiendishly difficult!

Some of these puzzles date back millennia; Bellos has bought them right up to date with this collection. Most fascinating is the history and evolution of these puzzles. As brilliant minds solved one, they then dreamt up even more complex ways to torment us. There is something for everyone in here, not just for fans of Sudoku, and the different levels of puzzles mean that you have some that intrigue, others that need a little more effort, and some that may make your head hurt. It is an excellent book for encouraging mathematical exploration without out frightening people.

Thank goodness though, the answers are included at the back…

Paul Cheney 4/2

Can You Solve My Problems? Ingenious, Perplexing, and Totally Satisfying Math and Logic Puzzles by Alex Bellos
Guardian Faber Publishing 9781783351145 hbk Nov 2016

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