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Mathematical Fiction (Part 1)

In one of my past reviews of websites (September, 2005), the discussion focussed on Alex Kasman's web site, which is a great compilation of resources related to mathematical fiction (and has been revised since 2005). A great aide to those who teach and/or enjoy mathematics, the site listed more than 500 sources--novels, plays, movies, TV shows--that involve mathematics.

Now, Alex Kasman has taken the next step....he writes mathematical fiction. The first fruit of his labor is the text Reality Conditions: Short Mathematical Fiction, (MAA, 2005). The stories touch on a variety of mathematical topics, mathematicians, as well as perceptions of the world of mathematics...all written to fill what Kasman felt were "gaps in the body of mathematical fiction."

Consider these Chapters:

  • Unreasonable Effectiveness [The usefulnes of mathematics)
  • Murder, She Conjectured {The lack of female mathematicians historically]
  • The Adventures of Topology Man [A superhero able to change the topology of spaces]
  • The Exception [Old man in nursing home claims he solved Goldbach's Conjecture as an undergraduate]
  • Pop quiz [Artifact of student misuse of the internet]
  • The Math Code [Mysticism of mathematical symbolism]
  • Monster [Puns ala an algebraic group]
  • The Corollary [Problem of publish or perish]
These are only samples. Be forewarned that the text's mathematical allusions tend to be aimed at the undergraduate level, but any teacher with a mathematics background will find stories they can use (and enjoy).