More Math: Resources for Teens & Adults

For those of you who can't wait until the next National Math Festival, we invite you to explore the wonder and beauty of math with these puzzles, games, books, videos, and other mathy treats for teens and adults. Have a suggestion for us? Share with @natmathfestival on Twitter or send to mathfestival@msri.org. New resources are added each month!

(New in December 2017: items that may be available for purchase as gifts through various retailers are marked with a "🎁" gift icon. )

Puzzles & Problems

A Dozen Hat Problems (PDF)
In each of these problems, hats of specified colors are placed on players’ heads. Each player can see the colors of some or all of the other player’s hats, but not his own. The goal is to come up with a strategy players can agree on before the game that will allow as many players as possible to correctly guess the colors of their hats. Some of these problems are psychological or philosophical and many are deeply mathematical. At the very least, they are fun to think about!

Adalogical AEnigmas
From The Guardian‘s Alex Bellos: Try your hand at these logic puzzles inspired by Ada Lovelace and designed by Pavel Curtis, a legend in the puzzle community who has a day job as a software architect at Microsoft. The grids are based on Japanese-style logic puzzles like Sudoku and Kakuro, and use similar deductions. Pavel has been releasing new puzzles every month, and you can find more at his website, along with gentle hints for first-time players.

expii solve
Solve is a weekly set of five thought-provoking and interactive math challenges produced by the makers of expii (including 2017 Festival presenter Dr. Po-Shen Loh!). These problems are about having fun and thinking creatively. Each set contains problems of varying difficulty, beginning with the most accessible and ending with the almost impossible. Explore and enjoy!

Numberplay
This New York Times column by Gary Antonick and friends shares weekly math challenges on topics from pop culture to infinity.

The Parable of the Polygons
This game, created by Vi Hart and Nicky Case, is a simulation that shows how small individual bias can lead to large collective bias.

Project Euler
Project Euler is a series of challenging mathematical/computer programming problems that will require more than just mathematical insights to solve. Although mathematics will help you arrive at elegant and efficient methods, the use of a computer and programming skills will be required to solve most problems. The motivation for starting Project Euler, and its continuation, is to provide a platform for the inquiring mind to delve into unfamiliar areas and learn new concepts in a fun and recreational context. You can start by exploring the 600+ problems and register online.

Varsity Math
Varsity Math is the weekly math puzzle column by the National Museum of Mathematics featured each weekend in the Wall Street Journal.

Visual Patterns
Click on any pattern to see a larger image and the answer to step 43. Can you figure out the equation? These are a great warm-up to problem solving!

Learn & Explore

Chevron STEM Zone
Lots of great PDF resources that can change the way you play sports or enjoy watching them by sharing the science and math behind golf, football, baseball, basketball, and ice hockey.

The Manual of Mathematical Magic
Mathematics and magic may seem a strange combination, but many of the most powerful magical effects performed today have a mathematical basis. This free PDF booklet by the Faculty of Science and Engineering at Queen Mary University of London teaches the secrets behind street magic, explained clearly with instructions and videos to help you perform them perfectly. Learn about the math behind each trick and discover how that same mathematics is used to power our modern world!

NEW! MathFeed News App (iOS)
Mathematician and educator Francis Su (Harvey Mudd College) created the free MathFeed News App to bring you news and views about math in the media, including newspapers, influential blogs, podcasts, videos and puzzle columns. See how mathematical people and ideas are influencing the world today, and learn some math, too! (Don’t have an iOS device? You can follow @MathFeed on Twitter, where stories are tweeted out.)

The Math Inside the U.S. Highway System
Have you ever thought about why certain numbers are assigned to certain highway systems when you travel by car? Around Washington, D.C. you’ll see I-495, I-81, I-66.. but where did these numbers come from? Connecting patterns, associating properties of a number to those of a real world object — that’s what thinking mathematically is all about!

Mathematical Balloon Twisting (PDF)
This booklet by Vi Hart is for anyone interested in learning how to create mathematical shapes using the long tubular balloons designed for creating balloon animals and sculptures. It’s a tricky skill, but with a little practice you can be making your own masterpieces.

Mathematical Association of America (MAA)
The Mathematical Association of America (MAA) is the world’s largest community of mathematicians, students, and enthusiasts. MAA has a number of projects that may be of interest to members and the general public alike!

  • Found Math: MAA’s website features a new math-related photo every week, where MAA members submit their images taken all over the world on a weekly basis. The deadline for submission is every Friday!
  • Solving Real World Problems: Math students interested in industrial careers can learn from these case studies that come directly from the real world. Professional mathematicians talk about problems that have come up in their careers, from creating more realistic special effects with computer animation to storing nuclear waste, followed by videos which discuss ways you can use math techniques to tackle these real industrial problems.
  • Math Horizon’s Aftermath: These editorial essays on a wide variety of subjects related to math have appeared in Math Horizons, an MAA publication. You can find more blog posts at Devin’s Angle as well!

What’s the Difference between Mathematics and Statistics?
“Statistics has a sort of funny and peculiar relationship with mathematics. In a lot of university departments, they’re lumped together and you have a “Department of Mathematics and Statistics”. Other times, it’s grouped as a branch in applied math. Pure mathematicians tend to either think of it as an application of probability theory, or dislike it because it’s “not rigorous enough”.” This exploration of where and how math and statistics converge (or sometimes don’t) by blogger and student Bai Li is recommended by 2017 Festival presenter Dr. Rebecca Goldin of STATS.

Why Do Math
Mathematical and computational analyses have proved to be uniquely insightful for solving problems in science, society and our everyday lives. The Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) shares the stories of how math is being used in a wide variety of disciplines and career paths, from space travel to hearing implants and internet search engines.

Books & Videos

NEW! 3Blue1Brown
The very popular YouTube channel 3Blue1Brown, by Grant Sanderson, is a combination of math and entertainment. Sanderson explores mathematical explanations driven by animations, giving new perspective into math problems and concepts.

🎁 NEW! Counting from Infinity: Yitang Zhang and the Twin Prime Conjecture
In April 2013, a lecturer at the University of New Hampshire submitted a paper to the Annals of Mathematics. Within weeks word spread—a little-known mathematician, with no permanent job, working in complete isolation had made an important breakthrough towards solving the Twin Prime Conjecture.  The story of quiet perseverance amidst adversity is interwoven with a history of the Twin Prime Conjecture as told by several mathematicians, many of whom have wrestled with this enormously challenging problem in Number Theory. The film has aired on PBS; you can view the film trailer or purchase a DVD copy.

🎁 Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race
Before John Glenn orbited the earth, or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of African-American female mathematicians known as “human computers” used pencils, slide rules and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space. The film adaptation of Margot Lee Shetterly’s book debuted in cinemas in January 2017, and you can preview an excerpt from the book or purchase a copy of the film.

NEW! PBS Infinite Series
Mathematician Tai-Danae Bradley and physicist Gabe Perez-Giz offer ambitious content for viewers that are eager to attain a greater understanding of the world around them. Math is pervasive – a robust yet precise language – and with each episode you’ll begin to see the math that underpins everything in this puzzling, yet fascinating, universe.

Phyllotactic Spirals and the Art of John Edmark
What do plants know about numbers? A certain spiral pattern commonly seen in sunflowers, pinecones, and many species of cacti contains some surprising numerical properties. In this video, Paul Dancstep of San Francisco’s Exploratorium investigates kinetic sculptures by artist John Edmark.

Volumes: the MoMath Book Club
Love mathematics and books? This reading group (which meets in New York City) designed especially for those interested in mathematics and science and how it affects our lives. If you’re not in the New York City area, you can still enjoy their reading list of fiction and non-fiction books with math themes!

Competitions

Biographies of Contemporary Women in Mathematics
Each year, the Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM) sponsors an essay contest that is open to students in grades 6-12 as well as college undergraduates. Students are invited to interview a woman who works in a mathematics field and write a 500 to 1000-word biography based on their interview. Awards are given to students at the middle school, high school, and collegiate levels for winning essays. You can read previous winners online.

International Mathematics of Planet Earth (MPE) Competition
How can mathematics be useful in explaining things happening on a global scale? From biodiversity and resource management to epidemics and climate change, Mathematics of Planet Earth (MPE) is a contest for individuals or groups of individuals, institutions, schools, or nonprofit organizations to develop modules for museums or the web to introduce people to these concepts.

MIT Mystery Hunt
The MIT Mystery Hunt is a puzzlehunt competition that takes place on the MIT campus (in Massachusetts) every year during the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day weekend. The hunt challenges each participating team to solve a large number of puzzles which lead to an object (called a “coin”) hidden somewhere on campus. The winning team gets to write the subsequent year’s hunt. Mystery Hunt was launched in 1981 and is widely regarded as one of the oldest and most complex puzzlehunts in the world. It attracts more than 2,000 people every year and has inspired similar competitions at universities, companies and cities around the world. This site serves as a record of the Mystery Hunt’s history and an archive of past hunts you can explore and try. We hope that it inspires you to join in on the fun and become a master puzzle solver – beginners are welcome!

Moody’s Math Mega Challenge
Moody’s Mega Math Challenge is a mathematical modeling contest for U.S. high school juniors and seniors (for full eligibility rules, visit the site). Through participation, students gain the experience of working in teams to tackle a real-world problem under time and resource constraints akin to those faced by industrial applied mathematicians. The Challenge is sponsored by The Moody’s Foundation and organized by the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) and awards $150,000 in scholarships each year. Registration often closes in February.

NEW! Open Set 2018 – MoMath’s Song Contest
Make math your muse! Through early 2018, MoMath is accepting submissions for its annual mathematical song competition, Open Set. Write your own words to a favorite tune or compose your own melody; the only rules are that the lyrics must be original and must be about math or a mathematical concept. The winners will be announced and will have a chance to perform their winning songs at an open mic night at MoMath in New York City in April 2018. Need inspiration? Check out 2017’s submissions.