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Ancient Puzzles: Classic Brainteasers and Other Timeless Mathematical Games of the Last Ten Centuries Paperback – November 1, 1993

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam (November 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553372971
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553372977
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,602,807 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Olivastro's combination of history and puzzles-to-solve may intimidate or simply put off some readers who are strictly of the "let's play" school. Others will be enthralled to learn of the antiquity of some of today's still-popular numeric puzzles. Along the way, the author delivers some fascinating information, such as the origin of the word stockholder and of a magic square devised by Benjamin Franklin. Here are some great ideas for enlivening a math classroom or blending math with history or social studies. Denise Perry Donavin

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Finkel on May 24, 2006
Format: Paperback
Too often, mathematics is presented as some realm too difficult for mere mortals to enter. In Olivastro's excellent book, we see the truth: that mathematics is a human endeavor and always has been. It is a lively tour through the history of human puzzle making and solving. In reading this book, you get to participate in the act of solving puzzles and doing math, but also you see math in its natural habitat, surrounded by art, religion, and culture. This book argues, among other things, that the Hindu-Arabic number system which we all use unthinkingly is the supreme invention of all time. After reading Ancient Puzzles, I think Olivastro has a good point. I've never looked at numbers (as we write them) the same way.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By L. Olivieri on December 21, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I purchased this book as a gift for my retired parents thinking that puzzles and history would be an interesting and fun leisure activity for them. But while the history part of the reading is rather fun, some of the puzzles are very complex.

More than that, the editor of this book should be drawn and quartered. There is fully two inches of wasted white space bordering the text on each page, yet the font is so small that reading it at all is challenging to almost a ridiculous degree. We jokingly named the font 'flyspeck Helvetica', but after calculating it for myself I found that the 1/16" font height is approximately a 5 point font; less than half the standard font of 10 or 12 points for most literature. I almost returned the book for this reason. But my parents wear reading glasses anyway and decided it was fine. Lucky for the author that the content was interesting enough to deal with the ill-conceived layout. Certainly, reformatting for the next edition is in order here.

Further, it seems to be a fairly intense read. It does not appear to be a coffee table book that can be perused lightly. The graphics are line drawings and equations intermixed with with text. I come from a long line of fairly bright people, but after a day at work or home with kids reading anything from this book was more of a task than I cared to undertake. Although to be fair, I am not an avid reader.

But my parents seem to like it. They have both time and spectacles. If you are looking for something different and something challenging then this book is for you. If you are looking for a more fun-to-read puzzle book, I recommend 'The Big Book of Brain Games' for its colorful graphics, more reasonable font, and easy to bite-off-and-chew sections that had us sitting together, laughing, trying to solve its amusing puzzles.
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