Puzzles in Mathematics Education
University of Toronto
Puzzles emerge at the dawn of history, revealing something intrinsic about human thinking. As such, they have allowed us to play with reality in clever and ingenious forms, from riddles to mathematical games such as Archimedes’ loculus. Significantly, puzzles have often been the source of new ideas in mathematics, leading to the establishment of new fields and branches. Given their exploratory nature, it is not surprising to find that puzzles were at the core of mathematics education in antiquity. An early math textbook, called the Ahmes Papyrus (1650 BCE), is a case-in-point. It contains challenging puzzles that were apparently intended for the education of Egyptian youth. Similar texts exist across the ancient world. Clearly, puzzles were perceived as intrinsic to mathematics and how it is learned. Today, it is rare to find entire courses and curricula that revolve around puzzles in a similar way. Typically, puzzles are used as ancillary devices in the production of learning materials and in curricula, not as the core of math pedagogy. This book argues that putting puzzles at the center of math curricula, as was the case in antiquity, will enhance learning outcomes in all types of students. The book describes the classic math puzzles, deconstructing their psychological features, so that their pedagogical value can be examined concretely.
ISBN 9783862888276. Interdisciplinary Studies on the Nature in Mathematics 04. 216pp. 2017.