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How The Other Half Thinks: Adventures in Mathematical Reasoning

Author: Sherman Stein

Ever play with the Buffon Needle problem....or the related Wet Noodle problem? This text uses interesting problems such as these to help the general audience both see and appreciate the mathematical way of thinking. Though the ideas become quite sophisticated, they depend only on simple arithmetic and geometry.

Consider another problem: How long a string of aīs and bīs can you make without repeating any triplet? For example, if your string is abab, you cannot add an a as that would include the triple aba twice. Is it okay to add a b?Though seemingly inane, the problem leads to more general ones connected to maps and is even connected to the real-life applications such as the measurement by radar of the distance to a planet or the communication of secret information.

For the captivated reader, the book includes a great reference list that opens paths to further or deeper investigations. Plus, by playing with the problems yourself, you will probably be able to make up your own extensions or new questions.

Source: McGraw-Hill, 2001