Amusements in Mathematics, by Henry Dudeney

Amusements_in_Mathematics-Henry_DudeneyThe history of the subject entails nothing short of the actual story of the beginnings and development of exact thinking in man. The historian must start from the time when man first succeeded in counting his ten fingers and in dividing an apple into two approximately equal parts. Every puzzle that is worthy of consideration can be referred to mathematics and logic. Every man, woman, and child who tries to “reason out” the answer to the simplest puzzle is working, though not of necessity consciously, on mathematical lines. Even those puzzles that we have no way of attacking except by haphazard attempts can be brought under a method of what has been called “glorified trial”—a system of shortening our labours by avoiding or eliminating what our reason tells us is useless. It is, in fact, not easy to say sometimes where the “empirical” begins and where it ends.

As for the question of difficulty, some of the puzzles, especially in the Arithmetical and Algebraical category, are quite easy. Yet some of those examples that look the simplest should not be passed over without a little consideration, for now and again it will be found that there is some more or less subtle pitfall or trap into which the reader may be apt to fall. It is good exercise to cultivate the habit of being very wary over the exact wording of a puzzle. It teaches exactitude and caution. But some of the problems are very hard nuts indeed, and not unworthy of the attention of the advanced mathematician. Readers will doubtless select according to their individual tastes.

Henry Dudeney


Henry Ernest Dudeney (10 April 1857 – 23 April 1930) was an English author and mathematician who specialised in logic puzzles and mathematical games. He is known as one of the country’s foremost creators of puzzles. His last name is pronounced with a long “u” and a strong accent on the first syllable, as in “scrutiny”.

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