The Puzzle Universe: A History of Mathematics in 315 Puzzles

4.7 out of 5 stars 36 ratings
ISBN-13: 978-1770854758
ISBN-10: 1770854754
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  • The Puzzle Universe: A History of Mathematics in 315 Puzzles
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From the Publisher

The Puzzle Universe: A History of Mathematics in 315 Puzzles


The history of ideas and recreational mathematics is full of puzzles. A puzzle is fun, a mental challenge that requires a solution.

I love games and puzzles. Over the last 60 years or so, I have collected, designed, researched and invented thousands of them, as well as hands-on interactive exhibits, toys, books and much more.

One of the reasons I am so passionate about games and puzzles is that I believe that they can change the way people think. They can make us more inventive, more creative, more artistic and even more human. They can allow us to see the world in new ways. They can remind us to have fun, make us healthier and even prolong our lives. Child psychologists have long known that children learn about the world through games. We can understand the most abstract and difficult concepts if we allow ourselves the luxury of approaching them not as work, but as fun — and as a form of exploration. G.C. Lichtenberg, the 18th century German physicist, famous for his wit and quotations, noted: “What you have been obliged to discover by yourself leaves a path in your mind which you can use again when the need arises.”

The Puzzle Universe is intended for general readers of all ages. It is about puzzles, mathematics and its latent beauty. It is full of challenging historical facts, thinking puzzles, paradoxes, illusions and problem solving. But it is much more.

The puzzles in this book, which combine entertainment and brain teasing, expand on that idea and apply it to concepts common to art, science and mathematics. Well-placed quotations, historical anecdotes, biographical notes and in-depth explanations of the solutions all try to create a pleasant and enjoyable environment for creative discovery, problem solving, fun and enjoyment.

For these reasons I have given them a new name: Playthinks. A Playthink may be a visual challenge, riddle or puzzle; it may be a toy, game or illusion; it may be an art object, a conversation piece or a three-dimensional structure. There are many discoveries and problems in mathematics that do not depend on specialist knowledge. They may only involve basics, common sense and a bit of intuition. Some of the Playthinks are original, while others are novel adaptations or visualizations of classic and modern challenges. Whatever its form, a Playthink will ideally transfer you to a state of mind where thinking, pure play and problem solving coexist for the betterment of your brain.

Because playing and experimenting with Playthinks stimulates creative thinking, you may find the book slyly educational.

I certainly hope it is! My goal is for you to play, think about the problems, maybe even solve some of them, and go away satisfied, more curious and more creative.

— Ivan Moscovich

Editorial Reviews


A great read for anyone interested in puzzles or mathematics. (Publishers Weekly 2016-11-01)

This trove contains puzzles, brain teasers and games, some of which date back thousands of years. (Keith Blanchard Wall Street Journal 2015-11-17)

First things first: To ease your mind, yes, this book includes an answer section as well. But Moscovich, a celebrated puzzle inventor, makes a compelling case for puzzle solving as a means of developing creativity and even intelligence, so you might want to give it a go to solve a few on your own before consulting the answers. Colorful illustrations are mixed with historical notes about famous mathematicians, all kinds of puzzles and games, and discussions of objects ranging from gears to the Sphinx-making this book all the more engaging for puzzle enthusiasts and those interested in the history of science. Gift Guide 2015 Selection. (Fenella Saunders American Scientist 2015-12-18)

The Puzzle Universe is a quixotic, informative, and enlightening encyclopedia of recreational mathematics. It should prove to be an inspiration to mathematical idlers, and a rich resource for learners and teachers who wish to be attuned to the playful and creative side of mathematics. (Dan MacKinnon Mathrecreation Blog 2015-12-17)

Having read several of Ivan Moscovich's previous puzzle books, I was not surprised in thumbing through it to find a wonderful collection of puzzles and problems to challenge mathematicians of all ages and levels, and all presented in beautiful color. What seems to be even newer here is a larger focus on the historical nature of the problems in the development of mathematics... Check out what I believe may be the most beautiful coffee table holiday gift for all the puzzle lovers on your Christmas list. (Pat Ballew Pat's Blog 2015-11-15)

Would make a great gift for a mathematically minded friend or family member. (Mike Dr. Mike's Blog 2016-06-06)

About the Author

Ivan Moscovich is celebrated worldwide as one of the leading inventors and presenters of visual games and puzzles. He has more than 40 illustrated books to his credit, of which The Big Book of Brain Games has sold over one million copies and was translated into more than 20 languages. He is widely recognized as one of most innovative inventors in the toy industry.

Product details

  • Item Weight : 3.92 pounds
  • Hardcover : 396 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1770854754
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1770854758
  • Reading level : 8 and up
  • Product Dimensions : 9.25 x 1.13 x 10.5 inches
  • Publisher : Firefly Books (October 22, 2015)
  • Language: : English
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.7 out of 5 stars 36 ratings

Customer reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5
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Top reviews from other countries

4.0 out of 5 stars Challenging puzzle book
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 31, 2019
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5.0 out of 5 stars Cannot be bettered
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 4, 2016
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Antonio M.
5.0 out of 5 stars mathematics from puzzles
Reviewed in Spain on August 5, 2020
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