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I Was Fooled

In recognition of Martin Gardner and his legacy, every item in this week's MathNEXUS is devoted to his work.

One of my favorite memories is his April (1975) column in Scientific American, where he claimed that this 110-region map required five colors and was thereby a counterexample to the four-color "theorem" (at most four colors are needed to color any planar map whose regions share a common boundary but do not share the same color)..

I remember trying to color the regions...gave it as an extra-credit challenge to my middle school students. Then, in a subsequent issue, Martin Gardner confessed his claim was an April Fool's joke on his readers (and me!).

Martin Gardner was caught off-guard by the public response to his April Fool's prank, even becoming almost apologetic: "I never dreamed anyone would take it seriously, yet it produced more than a thousand letters from readers who did not recognize the column as a hoax."

Ah, fond memories....!