Riddles in Mathematics, by Eugene P. Northrop (1944, 2014)

Nonfiction
14 to Adult
Riddles in Mathematics: A Book of ParadoxesThis new edition of a mathematical classic features an introduction by Daniel Silver, who provides both a brief biography of the author and an exploration of the book’s longevity and continued relevance fully 70 years after its original publication. As one who works in post-secondary science studies, I particularly appreciated this observation from Silver as he explained the book’s wartime origins: “A powerful nation can build battleships and planes in a hurry, but it cannot easily correct for decades of classroom neglect” (p. 7). Northrop presents brain teasers and puzzles – the classic example of two fathers and two sons, but only three men – and then proceeds to explain them, deconstructing them so you can understand why you likely went astray. He follows up with similar puzzles so you can put your new skills to the test, rather like a math textbook. I do enjoy logic problems, and found this was a high-test version of the drugstore magazines that intrigued me as a youth. In fact, I wish Northrop had put the solutions at the end as I found he revealed the answers too soon. The book starts with fairly simple puzzles, working through geometry (optical illusions) and building on algebraic skills as we go along. I fully admit that I didn’t finish; the puzzles were beyond my ability by the half-way mark, though had I spent more time fully working out the earlier problems I think I would have been more successful at later ones. Several puzzles entertained me while others drove me crazy trying to figure them out, so if you don’t mind spending a lot of time thinking through the puzzles, you will likely enjoy this new edition of a math geek’s classic. Other than the introduction, the book is exactly as it was first published, including illustrations to help you wrap your head around some of the riddles. My thanks to NetGalley for an e-galley of this title in exchange for my honest review.
More discussion and reviews of this title: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22654558
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About Michelle Mallette
I'm just trying to keep track of the books I've read - what I liked and what isn't worth re-reading. My work as a librarian has included youth services so you'll find a wide range of interests from picture books and teen dystopia to adult sci-fi, road trip novels, and nonfiction. Comments and communication is always welcome.

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