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The doodle theorem, and beyond…

One of the things I like about recreational maths is how we can start with a simple game, play around a bit, poke in the corners, and suddenly fall down a deep hole into some serious mathematics. In this article we start with some well-trodden ground, which some readers will find familiar. However, we quickly find that all is not as it seems, and we soon stumble over a veritable pot of gold. To see how, read on…

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Cracking the Guess Who? board game

Does this person have ginger hair?
  Is this person a boy?
  Is she wearing a hat?
  Is your person Anita?

Maybe everyone has played Guess Who? the board game where you try to guess which character your opponent has before they find out yours. For those who have never played Guess Who?, the game goes as follows: each player picks a card at random, on which will be drawn the face of a character. In turns, the two players ask each other yes/no questions to try and guess who their opponent has picked. A board with all the images of the characters initially standing up helps the player keep track of which ones have been eliminated along the way. Continue reading

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Number Rumbler–a new fun maths game!

Maths on Toast is a charity that aims to challenge and change the public’s perception of mathematics, collaborating with various institutions in order to achieve this. For example, over the last year, they asked UCL mathematicians what they find hard about maths – resulting in We’re Stuck! – a piece of family theatre directed by Sarah Punshon. Right now they’re collaborating with Luciano Rila about colouring patterns in maths (do contact Luciano for more information!). But meanwhile they’ve come up with a new maths game for families… Find out more below!

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For the love of puzzles

You are in a pub. The former maths teacher opposite you is playing with a hexaflexagon; the PhD student next to you is showing the statistician next to her how to pair up the wings on a 4×4×4 Rubik’s cube; and you have just worked out that a square based pyramid made with equilateral triangles (and a square) has twice the volume of a tetrahedron made with the same triangles.

Maybe this sounds too good to be true, but this happens. Monthly. And not just in London: Guildford, Sheffield, Cheltenham, Norwich, Dublin, New York, Bombay, Edinburgh and 28 more towns and cities play host to monthly pub maths.

The initiated will know that I am talking about MathsJam, started in 2008 by stand up mathematician Matt Parker as a place for mathematicians to meet and share puzzles. As everyone brings puzzles along from a wide range of sources, there is always something new and interesting. Continue reading

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Optimal Pac-Man

In the classic arcade game Pac-Man, the player moves the title character through a maze. The aim of the game is to eat all of the pac-dots that are spread throughout the maze while avoiding the ghosts that prowl it.

While playing Pac-Man recently, my concentration drifted from the pac-dots and I began to think about the best route I could take to complete the level.

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