Hexaflexagons and Other Mathematical Diversions

by Martin Gardner

Martin Gardners column “Mathematical Games” was in the magazine “Scientific American” for so long that he was more than an institution. This was the first of his books to take some of the ideas from the many columns and
present them in volume format.

I first came across it in a British edition titled “Mathematical Puzzles and Diversions” in my early teens. From memory it took me around three weeks and two rolls of adding machine tape to finish with the hexaflexagons (don’t ask, just buy the book) in the first chapter.

Mr Gardner deserves his reputation as a writer who can simplify complex subjects without talking down to the audience and this is well demonstrated in this volume. Some of the later chapters deal with parts of probability and game theory that skirt around some complex maths while someone with little mathematical ability (such as myself) finds it easy to follow along. The prose is light and easily read while the subject matter is entertaining.

I would recommend this book for someone mathematically inclined in their early teens or anyone in their mid teens or later. If you have a child capable of mathematical and/or logical thought who is getting turned off mathematics by the rigors and dullness of school then this volume may well turn the trick – I know it was influential in convincing me that it was my schooling and not my mind that had ruined my maths ability. I give it only four stars as it is now starting to show its age, otherwise it would have five.

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