While playing games is not a humans only club on this planet, so far the mathematical interpretation of them is. With origins that stretch back as far as the historical record can reach, games provide us with an endless source of entertainment and pleasure. Even the essentially trivial game of tic-tac-toe is still as popular today as it ever was. In this book, Schwartz examines several games that one can play in isolation, that at first appear to be extremely difficult. However, once analyzed from the mathematical perspective, it turns out that the playing strategies are really quite straightforward. Given that this book was last published in 1978, you may think that the material is dated. Naturally, some is, as the solutions were computed on a desktop calculator. However, the archaic mode of solution does not detract in any way from the beauty and accuracy of the results. As someone who always looks at games through a mathematical lens, I found each one to be an interesting excursion into the areas of "recreational" mathematics. The analyzed games include: peg solitaire, the towers of Hanoi, knight interchanges on a chessboard and SIM. The level of mathematics used in the explanations is roughly that of high school algebra. If you are fond of puzzles where mathematics can help in their solution, then you will definitely like this book.
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About the reviewer
Charles Ashbacher (CharlesAshbacher)
Charlie Ashbacher is a compulsive reader and writer about many subjects. His prime areas of expertise are in mathematics and computers where he has taught every course in the mathematics and computer … more
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