FIYS 169. Recreational Mathematics

Fall 2014


Remember a draft of your final paper is due in class on December 3 (this Wednesday).

The details for what is required for the final paper are now on this link.

This weekend, send me a list of your top 5 choices for mathematicians you're interested in writing about for your final paper. You must select them from this list. I will then assign one of them to you for Monday's session in the library.

List of Mathematicians.

Due on Friday Nov. 21 is the following:

Class on Monday Nov. 17 will be in Room 203 in the library.

For the third blog post, you have to comment on all of them by December 10 (the last day of classes).

The third blog post instructions can be found here.

Remember to write better blog comments on the blog posts. Lazy comments like "That was a very good summary. At first I didn't understand the chapter, but your explanation made it much clearer" are not worth much (if any). If the blog post did enhance your understanding, explain what was confusing before and how the blog post helped you understand the chapter better. Give specifics.

Class on Wednesday October 1 will be in the Center for Chicago Programs. Please arrive 10 to 15 minutes before 9am. We will attend the opening ceremony of the "Sand Mandala Ritual". The ceremony will include some straight-edge and compass constructions.

The second blog post instructions can be found here.

The first blog post instructions have been emailed to you. You can also find them here.

The blog assignments have been handed out.

Remember to submit a revision of your summer assignment on Monday at class time. Turn in a printed revision and the graded original. Also send a digital copy to my email with the filename "LastNameSummerRevision" with your last name and the file format in .docx or.pdf.

Remember to post a comment on the first post in the course blog.

Check out this TED talk by mathemagician Arthur Benjamin from Harvey Mudd College. The video is only 15 minutes long and essentially does the tricks I did in class today. He is much better at squaring and explains his technique but he doesn't let you know how he does the "guessing the digit" trick which I explained today in class. When I saw this video I figured out the trick which is what you saw in class today.


The Colossal Book of Mathematics by Martin Gardner.

A pocket style manual 6th edition by Diana Hacker and Nancy Sommers.

The textbooks are mandatory.

Topics we will cover

Puzzles, paradoxes, and brain teasers have inspired many young people to pursue careers in science, and more than one achievement in mathematics has emerged from the desire to solve difficult puzzles. In this course we will examine many famous (and not-so-famous) puzzles, and explore famous games such as Sudoku and Monopoly, to gain insight into all manner of phenomena. To guide us in our mathematical diversions, we will read essays by Martin Gardner, Ian Stewart, Peter Winkler, Terence Tao, and other popular mathematics writers. In addition, we will view documentaries and conduct group discussions to explore multiple aspects of mathematics.


The course grade will be based on:
Summer Assignment 5%,
Class Participation 15%,
First blog post 10%,
Second blog post 15%,
Third blog post 15%,
Blog participation 15%,
Final Paper 25%.

Summer Assignment

You are to read Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth written by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos H. Papadimitriou with art by Alecos Papadatos, Annie Di Donna. This is widely available at libraries, bookstores and easy to find at After reading the graphic novel you are to write an essay about the graphic novel that answers the following questions:

Your essay must be double-spaced, have one-inch margins on all sides, and use 12 point Times New Roman font and should not exceed 750 words. Essays should be emailed as attachments in either Microsoft Word (.doc/x) or Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) files to by August 18. The reason this assignment is due before class begins is so that I can return written work to you on the first day of class. It will also give me a sense of the relative strengths and weaknesses of the class so that I can fine-tune my teaching to your needs.

After getting the assignment back, you are to revise the essay and re-submit the graded essay and the revised essay on Monday September 1st.

Course Blog

The course will have a blog with the name FIYS169: Recreational Mathematics. Each student will submit three posts during the semester at dates provided by me. Each post will have different instructions. The blog will have daily student posts from September 9th to November 25th (each day by a student assigned by me). To be able to post, I will send an invitation to grant you access as an author of the blog. You will receive an email requesting that you register a Google account (if you don't already have one). When registering an account, make sure you have your name appear when you post (on your profile settings change your display name to your name).

A brief summary of what you are expected on each blog post is below. More detailed instructions will be given when each assignment is handed out in class.

Finally, to ensure the blog has a life of its own. You will be required to post one comment (or more) on at least 2 posts each week (excluding Homecoming week, Fall Break and Thanksgiving week where you are required only 1 comment). Your blog participation grade will depend on whether you post enough comments and on the quality of these comments.


There will not be any exams this class.

Class participation

Students are expected to come to every lecture. Students will be expected to read the required readings, pay attention in class and contribute positively to the class.

Final Paper

There will be a final paper due on December 17 by 11:30am. The details on what will be required for this paper are in this link.

Writing Center

The Writing Center offers free tutorial assistance, information, and resources for every stage of the writing process.

In the online scheduler you can set up an appointment with a writing center tutor. You can also set up a standing appointment (to meet every week at a set time) and you can also have access to a lot of resources the writing center has online.

Accommodations Statement

If you believe that you need accommodations for a disability, please consult with The Learning and Teaching Center. Since accommodations may require early planning and are not retroactive, please contact the center as soon as possible. For details about the services for students with disabilities and the accomodations process, visit

You are also welcome to contact me privately to discuss your academic needs. However, all disability-related accommodations must be arranged through Teryn Robinson at the Learning and Teaching Center.

Last modified on December 13, 2014.